Shelly Moorman-Stahlman’s Intercultural Exchange

The metal wall of keys, tubes, and pedals, the organ, is a common sight in many churches throughout the world. Dr. Shelly Moorman-Stahlman, professor of music and College organist, has been responsible for teaching generations of LVC students about the ancient and breathtaking instrument, but now, following a sabbatical in Brazil, she has taken on a set of different challenges: restoring the organs of Brazilian churches and expanding the knowledge base of the musicians playing them. 

Inspired by her sabbatical, in which she traveled around Brazil to perform piano and organ recitals, Moorman-Stahlman launched a cultural exchange program which brought Brazilian music students to LVC and saw LVC students travel to Brazil. The Brazilian students, varying in age from 18 to 26 years old, are all studying music in some form, whether sacred music or music education. Drawn from all over Brazil, Moorman-Stahlman gave them the kind of experience with church music that cannot normally be attained in their home country. This diversity is very much intentional.

“I wanted to have students from throughout Brazil,” said Moorman-Stahlman. “I want them to be able to go back and make changes all over the country. 

In Brazil, Moorman-Stahlman quickly found that many of the organs had been reduced to mere decoration pieces, despite often being rare or valuable models. As a result, she decided to pursue a separate project involving the restoration of old organs. The experience gave her a sense of how underequipped Brazilian church musicians really were, often having little more than a guitar to play to congregations with. Choirs are often nonexistent. Moorman-Stahlman will aim to expand the repertoire of the visiting students, giving them experience with LVC choirs as well as handbells and organs.

“There’s a real need to rejuvenate the choral music that they’re about to hear,” noted Moorman-Stahlman.

The Brazilian exchange students stayed with host families during their three weeks at LVC, giving them the chance to share their culture and save some money. Their curriculum for the trip consisted of a mixture of regular music classes, trips to area churches, and several recitals. The program is designed to mix Brazilian and LVC students, setting up a “special friend” system that gives music majors someone to guide around campus. Recitals and sessions with music fraternities are also designed to foster friendships between the two groups.

“When they return to their country, I want them to return excited about their experience in the United States,” said Moorman-Stahlman.

Moorman-Stahlman said music education is not just about learning, but sharing experiences and the practices of different cultures. And even with the program still in its early stages, her efforts have already helped to create an experience that students will never forget.