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Musical Practice as a Catalyst

for Liberal Arts and Life-long Learning

Welcome to ETHEL’s Wide World of Music as Thought! Based on our many engagements with education
across cultures and disciplines – especially our decade as Ensemble-In-Residence at Denison
University – we have distilled some of our most salient, successful, and tested outcomes, and present
them, here, as a resource to anyone interested in the development and impact of such activity.

Music is a universal human practice, the components of which can illuminate and lend coherence to
partnered materials, inspiring learning, creativity and cooperation. As highly trained and expert
practitioners of the Western European and American musical traditions, ETHEL is exceptionally adept at
perceiving relationships between artistic and academic disciplines. As people of broad experience and
compassionate nature, we are widely recognized for building bridges between communities through
music and the skills necessary to share it.

Here, you will find the urgent testimonials of the members of ETHEL, as well as those of the faculty,
students and administration of Denison University, speaking to the purpose, process, design and
delivery of this collaborative work and its deep value to any community both on- and off-campus.
Thank you for joining us!!

① Engagement

Added Value
Adam Weinberg, Kim Coplin, Ching-chu Hu, and Michael S. Morris of Denison University describe the value this artist in residence program has added to the students at Denison University across all majors.
Impact On Campus

Adam Weinberg, Kim Coplin, Ching-chu Hu, and Michael S. Morris of Denison University describe the ongoing impact this artist in residence program has had on Denison University’s campus from generating excitement, swaying its board of directors to build a new performing arts building, and more!

② Impact

ETHEL visiting Denison University's Homestead
Corin Lee of ETHEL playing basketball with Denison University students
ETHEL performing in the Samson Talbot Hall for Denison University bio students
About The Residency

In 2014/15, string quartet ETHEL became Denison University’s first Ensemble-in-Residence. Embedded on campus and the surrounding community, ETHEL works across disciplines, using music as an entry point for engagement and life-long learning. Residency activities employ the principles of music practice and collaboration to enhance learning in the liberal arts.

Based on deep relationships with faculty, students, administration, and community partners, the project increases access to, and understanding of music, improving its integration into communities. The residency sparks discussion and challenges segregated disciplinary pedagogy on and off-campus. In conjunction with Denison partners, the project’s successes have created programming that employs the components of musical activity to inform, cohere, and inspire learning, creativity, and cooperation.

The program taps creative energy by contrasting knowledge and experience within a specific discipline with the knowledge and process of real-time creation in music. Mindful listening, collaboration, improvisation, and non-verbal expression are fundamental to fruitful interaction in myriad disciplines.

Identifying and discussing these aspects of knowledge benefits students of all subjects as well as life-long learners. Students and faculty in seemingly disparate liberal arts fields are drawn out of their comfort zones of “silo-ed” expertise and encouraged to explore alternate ways of approaching academic material. A deeper understanding of musical practice and of music itself promotes cross- and multi-
disciplinary collaborations, and opens doors to mutual understanding and team playing.

Examples: Psychology sessions relate music to fundamental principles in psychological science by studying how the nervous system transduces a string quartet’s physical sound waves to render psychological experiences and perception. A Phenomenology of Listening course compares and
contrasts ETHEL playing both repertoire and improvisations. Philosophy and Sociology courses use musical dialog, composition, and interpretation to examine meaning, language, and communication. Environmental Science students discuss the relationship of music-making to resource management and social norms. Journalism classes use experience of music to discuss the nature of subjectivity and interpretation. Beyond the classrooms, the project delivers a unique musical experience to students and community members who would not otherwise be exposed.

In an effort to share this work, ETHEL and partners are documenting residency activities through the recording of interviews with key Denison partners for posting on ETHEL’s website. The interviews currently posted on will be supplemented with additional video as it is edited. The material is provided for potential replication, and to encourage life-long learning in members of the broader community. Thus, residency methods developed at Denison will be shared with colleges and universities, performing arts/community centers, and libraries.

③ Reach Out

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    National Endowment for the Arts logo

    This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how
    National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit