Natalie Zelensky, Assistant Professor of Music at Colby College

Natalie Zelensky, Assistant Professor of Music at Colby College

May, 2015

BRAVO to Colby College Assistant Professor Natalie Zelensky for her creative and inspiring approach to music and learning!

Since coming to Colby in 2012 with a Ph.D. in Music Studies from Northwestern University, Professor Zelensky developed an array of out-of-the-box music courses that cross curriculum and make music fun, innovative nourishing. Courses titled “From Rockabilly Kings to Lady Gaga: A History of Rock and Roll;” “Exploring Music and Gender;” and “Introduction to World Music” have helped established her teaching style and has drawn interest campus-wide.

But it’s her course titled “Music as Culture: Introduction to Ethnomusicology” that has become wildly popular with music majors and non-music majors alike. Ethnomusicology broadly bundles cultural and interdisciplinary elements of music and explores how music engages the arts, religious belief, philosophy, society, etc. It can be a study of any period of history or global location, but what makes Zelensky’s course particularly unique is its convergence with Maine’s Franco-American Music.

The students of MU222/Maine’s Musical Soundscapes: The Ethnography of Maine learn ethnographic field methods and conduct interviews at sites that make up the rich tapestry of Maine’s soundscape.

Students are paired up to plan and conquer the tasks of conducting interviews, writing treatments, creating storyboards and then presenting their findings in the form of a documentary film.

“I’ve learned that making a documentary is very difficult, said Mardene Haskell, a sophomore from Holderness NH, Sophomore. “You are not only filming an interview…you are telling a story and attempting to represent someone to the best of your ability.”

Mardene’s biggest challenge was working with the editing software but “I love learning about things that I wouldn’t otherwise know unless I put myself out there, and take classes that I know nothing about. Colby has given me the opportunity to do that.”

“I am proud to say that I know much more about my state, Franco-American history, as well as the history of Maine,” she recanted, noting “Maine is a unique, amazing place that will always have a huge place in my heart.”

Mike Boardman, a sophomore from Pelham, NH and Cameron Price, a freshman from Rutland, VT were co-directors of their film project.

“It has been a very learn-as-you-go process for us,” said Boardman. “We think the interviews just got better each time and we became more comfortable with our consultant.”

But they also shared their challenges with the editing and trimming. “That has been quite a surprise, we thought it would be a little bit easier,” Boardman stated.

“We have both learned a lot about the Franco culture and the process to make a movie,” said Price, adding, “And we hope to pass along our perspective of that culture to those who see our film.”

“For us it has been a great experience working with our consultant,” the two concurred. “He always made jokes and had us laughing during the entire process. And we got to make a movie we wouldn’t have done on our own without the push of our teacher and Colby.”

[Editor’s Note: As the consultant for the Boardman-Price creation, I can attest to their highest level of respect and professional “star” treatment. They were so comfortable to share this journey with, and represented the project, the class and the College with a refreshing sense of purpose and pride.]

The collection of student documentaries will be shown to the public this Friday, May 8th at an event called Maine’s Musical Heritage, from 7-8:30 at Given Auditorium in the Bixler Building on the Colby Campus.

This year’s film subjects include: Jacynthe Blais Jacques, French instructor/Tutor and Director of Cultural and Language programs at The Franco Center in Lewiston; John Cote, guitarist, mandolin and fiddle player from Lewiston; Louis Philippe, singer/recording artist from Westbrook; Steve Muise, fiddler and teacher from Farmington; Accordeonist Leonel Ducas from Orrington; and Luc Duplussey.

The event is open to all students, faculty, staff and the interested public. Admission is free and a reception will follow.



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