|Exploring the World through Song
Share This Article
Dr. Rebecca Lister, associate professor of music, and Cassondra “Cassie” Diaz ’14, music education and vocal performance double major, spent nearly three weeks last summer in Asunción, Paraguay, with support from an Arnold Grant for Experiential Learning. The trip was an opportunity for Lister to continue her ongoing recital collaboration with internationally known Paraguayan guitarist Berta Rojas, while Diaz took advantage of an opportunity for intensive instruction in vocal pedagogy while experiencing another culture.
Lister had first visited Paraguay in 2012, and was eager to return: “I wanted to experience the students’ excitement in learning again, and to expand their knowledge of songs in English,” she says. “Their facilities and environment are much less advanced than those we have at LVC, but these students clearly demonstrated their passion to achieve despite their circumstances. Their warmth, expressions of appreciation, musical intensity, and overall generosity continue to humble and inspire me to be a better teacher.”
Lister was also enthusiastic about the opportunities the experience presented to Diaz. “Basically, it was like a one-on-one seminar for Cassie,” she says. “She worked with three students on her own, and I observed her working with them and made suggestions as a way of offering her immediate feedback.” Diaz also developed detailed written lesson plans and a journal reflecting on her teaching strategies. She also had the opportunity to observe other voice teachers at two universities in Asunción—the Catholic University and the National Conservatory—and to perform a recital with Lister at the Municipal Theater, with orchestral accompaniment.
“This project was valuable for Cassie because it was both performance-based and scholarly based,” Lister explains. “As a future high school music teacher, she’ll need to work with the voices of her young students every day. She’ll need to analyze specific aspects of technique and create approaches that will enhance her students’ individual vocal technique. The ability to analyze and fix vocal problems is absolutely crucial to any choral conductor, and with this project, Cassie progressed well on her way to developing a critical ear.”
“What drew me to the project was Dr. Lister’s excitement and enthusiasm,” Diaz says. “I have a love for Hispanic people, and teaching in a foreign country is an opportunity you just can’t pass up!” Diaz noted that her fluent Spanish came in handy in a country where the majority of people speak no English.
But for Diaz, the experience was far more than academic. “I think it’s so important to give to those who are less fortunate than I am,” she says. “I’ve been blessed with an incredibly valuable education, and it’s my duty and my honor to give back to students who simply don’t have access to the resources that I’ve had all of my life. These experiences build perspective, understanding, and hopefully, compassion. That’s what Paraguay offered me, and I believe every privileged American student should give herself a chance to see how an international experience can open her eyes to something bigger.”
Lister hopes the collaboration will continue to be fruitful both for LVC and for the Paraguayan students. “In a way, Cassie and I were ambassadors for LVC, demonstrating both the technique and artistry we offer here in our department,” she says. “I’d very much like to create an opportunity for Paraguayan students to attend LVC, whether as members of a semester-exchange program or even as undergraduates. It would be a fascinating possibility and a great way to foster diversity on campus.”