Music = Mutual Understanding
A component of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the Fulbright-mtvU Fellowship is a special opportunity for up to four U.S. students to pursue projects around an aspect of international contemporary or popular music as a cultural force for expression.
2015 - 2016
School: Boston University College of Communication
Major: Film and TV
Country Visiting: Serbia
Christa Majoras earned a B.S. in Film and Television from Boston University College of Communication in 2010. For her Fulbright-mtvU Fellowship, Majoras will travel to Serbia to research how young Serbians are expressing, creating, and changing culture through the underground dance music of Belgrade. Her research will produce a monthly video web series focusing on artists and an in-depth feature length film. Prior to the fellowship, Christa worked on a range of non-fiction media projects for web and broadcast including music programs for PBS, the True Life documentary series, and more.
School: Tisch School of the Arts at New York University
Major: Recorded Music
Country Visiting: Chile
Brian Parker received his B.F.A. in Recorded Music from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2011. Parker’s Fulbright-mtvU Fellowship will focus on developing a sonic profile of Chile’s electronic music culture, examining its importance in the global underground. His project involves creating an online archive and record label called Discobres, which will function as an interactive repository for interviews, mixes, and original music by local artists in Santiago and Valparaíso. Via Discobres, Parker hopes to highlight Chile as the flagship Latin American nation for electronic music and to emphasize the ways in which niche music communities forge international and transcultural ties. After his fellowship, he plans on extending the Discobres concept to other countries while furthering his own studies and projects as a musician and writer.
School: Washington University in St. Louis
Major: Music and Comparative Arts
Country Visiting: Dominican Republic
Sarah Plovnick is a 2015 graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, where she earned a B.A. in Music and Comparative Arts. For her Fulbright-mtvU Fellowship, she will research combinations of jazz and Dominican music and how these combinations influence music education and impact cross-cultural interactions. She will collaborate with the DREAM Project in the Dominican Republic to develop a sustainable, replicable music education curriculum for youth in impoverished communities. In recent years, Plovnick has worked with numerous music and education organizations, lived in Spain where she researched the intersection of jazz and flamenco, and performed on both piano and French Horn, with a focus on jazz. Her fellowship builds on these experiences as she continues to explore how music empowers communities and brings people together across cultural boundaries.
School: Loyola University New Orleans
Major: Music Industry Studies
Country Visiting: Mongolia
Since graduating from Loyola University New Orleans, Dimitri has spent his time merging his passions for exploration and producing multimedia content. His work and studies have led him to work in renowned recording studios around the United States, record music across the Mongolian steppe, wrangle horses in southwestern Colorado, and most recently, to the National Outdoor Leadership School in Lander, Wyoming. During his fellowship, Dimitri will return to Mongolia to film nomadic herders performing traditional music. His recordings, photography, and writing will be added to his website, www.mongolmusicarchive.com, which he started in 2013. As the performance of traditional Mongolian music becomes dominated by staged performances by professional musicians, Dimitri’s website will highlight an underrepresented and disappearing group of performers. He hopes the website will become a valuable resource and source of inspiration for academics, musicians, and music enthusiasts worldwide.
School: Florida State University
Major: Digital Media Art
Country Visiting: South Africa
Lena Weissbrot is a graduate of the Florida State University where she received a B.F.A. in Digital Media Art. In affiliation with Rhodes University, Weissbrot’s fellowship will focus on curating South African artists identifying as feminists who use Hip-hop music as a form of activism. Prior to her Fulbright-mtvu Fellowship, Weissbrot developed an interdisciplinary body of work integrating illustration, animation, video art, and original rap music to create politically charged feminist pieces that inspire social reform in favor of gender equality. Weissbrot’s work has been featured in several international publications, including Dazed Digital, Rhizome.org and The Huffington Post.
2014 - 2015
Benjamin Cohn is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound, where he studied international political economy. Cohn’s fellowship will focus on the political-economic impact of music on Ghana's rich history and culture, and he will use that research to set up a program to facilitate access to music education for the youth of Accra, Ghana's capital. Working with local musicians and organizations, Cohn will build a program to give the students a voice through the power of music. After graduation, Cohn moved to Yangsan, South Korea where he taught English for one year. Since returning to the United States, he has focused on music journalism, founding a hip-hop web site, Da-What.com.
Jillian Marshall earned a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian languages and civilizations from the University of Chicago in 2009 and she is currently pursuing a doctorate in ethnomusicology at Cornell University. After her undergraduate studies, Marshall moved to Japan for two years to teach English at a middle school in a small fishing village. It was during this initial time in Japan that she became fascinated with Japanese music, inspiring her to return to the U.S. to pursue her Ph.D. For her Fulbright-mtvU Fellowship, Marshall will be researching three different music scenes in Japan – traditional, J-pop and underground techno – to understand the link between music, society and identity in this unique culture.
Martha O’Donovan received her Bachelor of Arts from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Studies with a concentration in the politics of human rights and development in African cities. As a Gallatin-Africa House Fellow and Global Human Rights Fellow, she spent time working with young artists and activists in Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Zambia. O’Donovan’s fellowship will build upon that research as she returns to the Copperbelt in Zambia to explore how young men and women express themselves individually and collectively through music culture. The forms of their expression not only illuminate how youth project their dynamic identities, but also introduce new questions about the city and its citizens into the public sphere. O’Donovan’s research will focus on aspiring artists as well as individuals who reproduce this culture by participating in social spaces such as at music festivals or clubs.
Scott Shigeoka is a 2011 graduate of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in journalism. In partnership with local organizations, Shigeoka’s fellowship will focus on the launch of Saga Fest, a transformative music festival that builds community and promotes environmental sustainability. He is also developing a video series on the relationship between music and nature. Prior to the Fulbright-mtvU Fellowship, Shigeoka was a contributing music writer for The Washington Post Express and built international partnerships for an education startup.
Corinne Stokes earned her Bachelor of Arts in music and religious studies at the University of Miami and studied contemporary music at Berklee College of Music. She is a current Ph.D. student in Middle Eastern studies at the University of Texas at Austin, where she teaches Arabic and does research in language, performance and media. For her Fulbright-mtvU Fellowship, Stokes will travel to the United Arab Emirates to document contemporary Arab musical culture through multimedia blog entries and will follow new conceptions of what it means to be a performer in the Gulf region. Her work will concentrate on artists who perform in multiple dialects and musical genres as well as on the complex interplays of poetry, dialect and musical style in contemporary Arab music and musical media. Stokes plans to conduct interviews and present musical and lyrical analysis in order to assess the effects of multinational and pan-Arab collaboration on Arab music and media.
2013 - 2014
Phil Babcock holds a Master of Arts degree in ethnomusicology from Tufts University. Babcock’s project focuses on the creation of an online record label devoted to the digital distribution of music from popular musicians in Northern Ghana. Along with his collaborator, Sheriff Ghale—a popular reggae artist based in the north—Babcock’s goal is to provide a platform that allows North Ghanaian musicians an opportunity to be heard nationally and internationally. The capital city of Accra, on Ghana’s southern coast, is the country’s current entertainment industry epicenter, separated from the north both physically and religiously. For aspiring musicians in the north, it is very difficult to be heard beyond a local audience without moving to Accra and facing all the challenges that come with relocation. The creation of this online record label will allow northern musicians international visibility and distribution without forcing them to uproot their lives. Babcock’s project will also include organizing concerts in the northern capital of Tamale to provide an opportunity for local musicians. Babcock’s Fulbright-mtvU grant is an extension of his master’s thesis fieldwork, which focused on the life, music, and worldview of Sheriff Ghale. Before moving to Boston to pursue his master’s degree at Tufts, Babcock lived in his hometown of Seattle, WA, working at a record store and trying his best to learn how to mix live bands.
Melinda Reyes received a Bachelor of Science degree in Foreign Service with a focus on conflict and identity in Russia, Turkey, and Eurasia from Georgetown University in 2013. She will base her research in Istanbul, Turkey’s de facto cultural capital, as she examines how musicians specializing in non-traditional, hybridized genres navigate identity, and how the city’s musical landscape as a whole engages with evolving conceptions of citizenship and belonging in Turkey. Reyes will take into special account the experiences of women and musicians in jazz and electronic music, whose particular genres in the Turkish context tend to integrate multiple cultural influences. Reyes will document her findings through podcasts and video clips featuring local artists whose work creates dialogue and offers unique perspectives on the intersection of the self, the city, and music’s ability to foster social change.
Garrett Rubin is a 2013 graduate of the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, where he studied both classical voice performance and U.S.-Middle Eastern cultural diplomacy. Rubin will work with the Jordanian National Music Conservatory to create a music outreach program for Iraqi refugee children living in Amman. This program will aim to provide youth affected by displacement with an opportunity to use music-making as a means for developing confidence, expressing emotion, and building self-worth. Additionally, Rubin will document his project by creating a multimedia songbook for American music classrooms. This web-based music education tool will include recordings and sheet music from program classes in Amman, as well as original video footage documenting the lives and stories of participants and their families. Prior to his Fulbright-mtvU grant, Rubin worked closely with the Shropshire Music Foundation, an organization that implements music education programs for children living in countries affected by armed-conflict. He also served as the co-director of the Vancouver International Song Institute’s Arts of Conscience Symposium at the University of British Columbia.
Sara Skolnick holds of Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Boston University. While in Boston, Skolnick spent several years cultivating her skills as a DJ, event producer, multimedia journalist and advocate for hybridized, digital music as a tool for self-representation. These activities hold special significance for Skolnick because she comes from an Ecuadorian-Russian immigrant family. Based in Bogotá, Skolnick will investigate the significance of Internet-driven, low-barrier access to digital music production, and the opportunities for artists to elevate their own culture and radicalize tradition. Her Fulbright-mtvU research focuses on digital productions creating class-transcending, intergenerational Colombian soundscapes pairing regional musical traditions with international club sounds. Skolnick will also create a mixtape series and bilingual webseries to develop a digital archive of Colombian producers and the surrounding movement. Lastly, Skolnick will coordinate a workshop series in collaboration with a local NGO, La Lengua de mi Barrio, which offers free music production programs as tools for artistic agency. The programs with La Lengua de mi Barrio will benefit youth leaders who are using music to transform their communities through nonviolence.
2012 - 2013
Albulena Shabani, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee in 2010 with a Bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Political Science, is investigating the repercussions of the 1999 Kosovo war and its effect on women in the region. Her focus is on women, music, and voice in Kosovo. She will be documenting songs and stories of war-time sexual assault survivors. By partnering with several Kosovo-based non-governmental organizations, she will also examine how women are using creative ways to share their stories through art. Shabani has a background in spoken word poetry, multimedia performance art, creative non-fiction, and film theory. Originally born and raised in Macedonia to an ethnically Albanian family, this project has personal meaning to her. As an immigrant who overcame struggles of self-identity and gendered expectations, Shabani hopes her project will help women of Kosovo do the same.
Jeff Roy, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles, will create a documentary about how members of the LGBTQIA community in India use music and dance to navigate tradition, modernity and globalization, in order to craft a contemporary, urban identity. Roy will base his work primarily in Mumbai, India's largest urban center, to investigate how music and dance constructs and negotiates identities as sites of resistance and self-affirmation within the context of social gatherings, political protests and religious rituals.
Katherine Cloutier will tentatively graduate from Michigan State University in 2014, with a Ph.D. in Ecological-Community Psychology focusing on Gender, Justice and the Environment. Her project aims to bring awareness to the prevalence of HIV in Barbadian youth by researching how they use music, dance and community-based performance in order to promote leadership and healthy sexual behavior. Working with students in six different schools in Barbados, Cloutier aims to facilitate change through dance4life, a global youth leadership movement. By creating community action performances in conjunction with local musicians, Cloutier’s orchestrated routines will include music, dance, and locally informed theatre in order to disseminate information on sexual health issues and promote youth activism.
Sebastian Modak holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and History from the University of Pennsylvania, where he also minored in Music and African Studies. Modak’s goal is to investigate how musicians in Botswana confront social issues like the country's AIDS epidemic. He will be focusing on the thriving pop music scene in the country’s capital, which centers around a unique brand of hip hop locally referred to as motswako. Modak aims to create a documentary from monthly webisodes that will illustrate his findings; he also aims to publish a mixtape that showcases local hip hop recordings and incorporates musicians from the United States, which would serve as a tangible testament to the power of cross-culture artistry. Besides documenting the current state of hip hop culture in Gaborone, Modak also aims to become involved in projects that use the arts as a force of social change. Prior to becoming a Fulbright-mtvU Fellow, Modak spent two years living in Cambridge, Mass. working as a writer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and playing drums in two Boston-based indie rock bands.