A new partnership between Selkirk College and the Edna Manley College of the Visual & Performing Arts in Jamaica has opened the door for students to immerse themselves in Caribbean culture and creativity.
In October, an envoy of Selkirk College educators headed south to Kingston, Jamaica to formalize an agreement between the two post-secondary institutions. With a memorandum of understanding signed, the schools are now preparing to accept students into the exchange that will begin with the Selkirk College Contemporary Music & Technology Program and then have the opportunity to expand into other areas of arts study.
Selkirk College’s Pat Bidart (middle left) and Melody Diachun (middle right) had the opportunity to explore the programming at the Edna Manley College of the Visual & Performing Arts in Jamaica last month. The two schools have now signed a memorandum of understanding that will start to see students from both post-secondary institutions take part in a four-month exchange.
“We talk a lot about worldview and globalization, but Canadian students don’t tend to go abroad as much as other nations,” says Selkirk College’s Pat Bidart, the dean responsible for programs that focus on arts education. “This is especially true at the college level. One of the issues is that you have to find the right partner that is up to speed on what your outcomes are and this partnership just happens to be a perfect match.”
Expanding Opportunities for Students
Bidart arrived to Selkirk College in 2016 with a post-secondary career that stretches 30 years and a passport full of international education accomplishments. Amongst her previous experience is two years working as a senior technical advisor for Colleges & Institutes Canada (CICAN) in Jamaica.
As she settled into her role at Selkirk College and started to explore opportunities for local students, Bidart reached out to a Jamaican post-secondary she remembered fondly from her time spent on the Caribbean island. The Edna Manley College of the Visual & Performing Arts offers programs in music, drama, dance and visual arts. Selkirk College’s offerings include the Contemporary Music & Technology Program, Kootenay Studio Arts (blacksmith, jewelry, ceramics, textiles, sculptural metal and bronze casting) and the Digital Arts & New Media Program.
Music is a vital part of Jamaican culture with Bob Marley as its most well known export.
“When you talk about students traveling to study internationally, you need to have a partner that matches your outcomes,” says Bidart. “This provides our students with an opportunity to spend a semester abroad in an English-speaking country that has similar programs.”
Joining Bidart on the journey to Jamaica in October were School of the Arts chair Daryl Jolly and Contemporary Music & Technology Program advisor Melody Diachun. The goal was to lay the groundwork for a music program exchange that would send Selkirk College students to Jamaica and Edna Manley College students to the West Kootenay.
“Music is a huge part of their culture,” says Diachun, a former JUNO Award nominee who teaches in the music program. “The influence of artists like Bob Marley is still very prevalent at both the school and in the communities. Of course when people think of Jamaican music it’s reggae, but while I was on the visit, there were sub-genres of Jamaican music that I didn’t even know about. There is a lot to know and for our students, it would be huge in their education.”
The Right Match Found in the Caribbean
The Selkirk College music program offers students a two-year diploma, while the Edna Manley College is a four-year degree. Canadian students who are accepted into the four-month exchange will be able to enhance their education along with the cultural experience.
“The music program at Edna Manley College is a full-on program with both contemporary music and classical music,” says Diachun. “Our students know about the intensity of our program, so it will be easy for them to understand that they are going there to work.”
Though details are still being worked out, students on the Jamaican side of the exchange could arrive to the Tenth Street Campus in Nelson as early as September 2018. When that happens, all the students in the program will be able to participate in the excitement of the partnership.
The Selkirk College group that traveled to Jamaica were invited into the classrooms of Edna Manley College to get a closer look at the curriculum including Allison Wallace's Music Theory class.
“The cultural exchange is important and all of our students would have an opportunity to share in that when students from Jamaica come to Selkirk College,” says Diachun. “Getting to play music together would be a strength of this exchange because music is a common language. They will bring what they have and we will give them what we have, it will work beautifully.”
The quality of education and excellence at Edna Manley College was obvious to the Selkirk College contingent that traveled south and that bodes well for the new partnership.
“One aspect of the visit that stuck with me most and still resonates is the pride that students have,” says Jolly. “This is not only in their work, but how lucky they feel to even be able to get this kind of education. In Jamaica education is a privilege and to be able to study something like music or art or design or craft, those disciplines are recognized as such an important part of who they are in their culture. They are an active participant in their culture and it is recognized as such.”
Students currently enrolled in the Selkirk College Contemporary Music & Technology Program now have an opportunity to apply for the exchange this January. For more information please contact Melody Diachun.