International Education Week Concert Demonstrates the Social Impact of Singing Together

Categories: News Tags: Music

A recent informal music concert at EPIC, the Energy Production & Infrastructure Center, demonstrated the social impact of singing together. Performing as part of UNC Charlotte’s celebration of International Education Week, three groups of students showed how creating music together teaches teamwork and expands the understanding of different places and peoples.

On November 14, civil engineering students, students in the humanities class “Prominent Chinese Americans,” and the UNC Charlotte Women’s Chorus (“The Charlotteans”), presented a program of eight songs from different lands and in different languages. The event was hosted by Professor Dr. Shen-En Chen in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and is the result of a relationship established a year and a half ago.

“Shen-En Chen and I met as participants in the first cohort of the Global Learning and Internationalization Institute in May 2022,” said Ginger Wyrick, director of The Charlotteans. “A conversation began our exploration of music and engineering. I worked with his sophomore engineering students in Spring 2023 with a music project to help prepare them for project design work. The activity had such positive results on the students’ final engineering project that we repeated it this semester. A colleague, (Adjunct Professor) Yongling Gorke, also asked to participate this semester. I brought the same program to her Prominent Chinese Americans class.”

The concert opened with two songs performed by Professor Chen’s students: a German song and a Japanese song, both sung in the original languages. Professor Gorke’s students followed with three Chinese songs from different provinces. The Charlotteans sang three pieces, representing Japanese, Jewish, and Irish cultures, and the concert concluded with all three groups performing the Dutch song “Sarasponda” together.

collage of photos showing students singing

“Collaboration is a fundamental aspect of engineering, as it allows us to function as a cohesive team,” Professor Chen wrote in a description for the concert. “This not only contributes to the success of the project but also provides us with the chance to build new relationships and gain insights into diverse people and cultures throughout the journey.”

Professor Wyrick explained how the preparation and performance of a song serves as a vehicle for collaboration.

“The song is our agreed upon project. The ensemble must function as a team for the project to be successful. The individuals, who may not know one another, who may not even like one another, and who represent varying skill levels, are charged with working together for the good of the project. It is critical that all parts function as intended regardless of their role. In other words, don’t blow off the harmony because you wanted to sing melody. Everyone has a function and, when working together, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The song’s performance cannot be completed by one person. It takes everyone contributing what they can for the performance to take place.”

Equally powerful, Wyrick added, is music’s ability to introduce us to new countries and cultures.

“When singing music of other cultures, we are able to step into that people group, even if ever so slightly, to appreciate the sounds, rhythms, and texts connected with that area of the world. With that, the more connections we can make with others who may be different from us, the more likely we are to grow in understanding, empathy, and awareness that may lead to a more peaceful world.”

two pictures: first is large group of students singing, second is three faculty

Pictured top and above, students in various performing groups; participating faculty Yongling Gorke, Ginger Wyrick, and Shen-En Chen. Not pictured, the singers were accompanied by Inna Amromin, pianist for The Charlotteans; Wyatt Stocks, a senior clarinet student; Lincoln Gaskins, a junior cello student; and Al Brack, a a senior psychology and sociology student and member of The Charlotteans who played the Irish bodhrán.