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A World of Music

Volume 14 | Number 2 | January 2013

By Pat Wolfinbarger
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Traveling around the world is music to the ears. There’s the graceful, melodious sound of the nai pan flute in Moldavia. The unique mixture of sounds in a performance of Balinese gamelan. The foot-stomping songs of the Irish.

One of the University of Wyoming’s greatest ambassadors for internationalization, Rod Garnett is applying what he’s learned about music in every corner of the world to enhance his award-winning teaching career and bring a global perspective to the Department of Music.

Through ethnomusicology, or the study of music from different cultures, Garnett creates a unique and influential experience for students.

“While all studies of music must take into account human interaction, ethnomusicology has a very broad reach with a particular interest in cultural relativity,” Garnett says. “While our American music schools focus on what is identified as classical music of Western Europe and such forms as jazz that are often identified as classical American music, ethnomusicologists are interested in learning about all kinds of human interaction with music.”

An accomplished flutist, Garnett is particularly interested in origins and use of the flute by different peoples and cultures, a quest that led him to return to school to seek his Ph.D. in anthropology. In 2010, Garnett received a received a Fulbright student research grant to study nai (Romanian-style pan flute) and Moldovan music at the Academy of Music, Theater and Fine Arts in Moldova’s capital of Chisinau. His research also was supported by the Seibold Professorship grant from the UW College of Arts and Sciences.

Garnett’s research on the nai is providing insight into a changing modern culture, says Sarah Strauss, a UW Department of Anthropology associate professor and member of his Ph.D. committee.

“He has been looking at cultural identity in the context of Moldova as a post-Soviet nation with complex politics and culture, to understand how the nai pan flute is used for different kinds of music and different purposes,” she says. “And to learn how nai music is understood by Moldovans as a major part of their cultural patrimony, as well as, now, a route to fame and fortune, or at least a better living.”

Garnett’s work also has benefited the UW’s music department, including the acquisition of a Balinese gamelan and creation of a gamelan performance ensemble, and the establishment of two world music courses. And, Garnett is developing ethnomusicology degree options for the department’s curriculum.

“He is one of a handful of faculty in the department who are interested in music on a global level. His expertise in this area is a real bonus for us,” says Theresa Bogard, chair of the music department. Garnett’s interest in world music has greatly influenced students, too.

When Margaret Taberna, an international studies senior from Big Horn, learned about Garnett’s research in Moldova, she sought to do something similar on her undergraduate study abroad trip and enrolled in one of Garnett’s classes for an introduction to ethnomusicology.

In 2012, Taberna received the Dick and Lynne Cheney Study Abroad Scholarship and the International Programs Scholarship to conduct an independent research project centered on the role of the ekonting (a banjo-like instrument) in West Africa. She says Garnett provided insight into how to conduct a research-based project with music and offered to be her advisor.

“I was very happy to have met Prof. Garnett when I did because of his knowledge in world music and field studies, as well as his continued support throughout the project,” Taberna says. “He is not only an enthusiastic teacher and active musician in the community, but also a strong supporter of music being seen as a valid academic field of study.”

Since joining the UW faculty in 1990, Garnett has received many accolades for his contributions as an educator, researcher and performer, including the UW Ellbogen Award for Teaching Excellence (2002), the Wyoming Governor’s Arts Award (2004) and the UW Internationalization Award (2008).



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