Lectures & Masterclasses for Universities - Adults

Myths, Lies & Truths: Romanticizing Traditional Cultures

• University  - Adult • Single Session • Length: 60-90 minutes • Class visit or public lecture • Configuration: Trio or Quintet
•  Relevant to: History/Cultural Studies/Judaic & Near-Eastern Studies/Global Studies/Music/Ethnomusicology

The repertoire of The Forgotten Kingdom presents a fascinating case study for an all-too- common phenomenon: The  “positive distortion”  of traditional cultures to the point that culture bearers themselves cannot measure up to outsiders’ expectations. This distortion can be both deliberate — a form of racism, as with Native American cultures in the United States — or the unintended byproduct of technological, economic and social shifts. It can also be stirred and exacerbated by well-meaning "creatives."

This lecture traces the distortion of Sephardic music from the former Ottoman Empire, exploring  shifts in both their inadvertent and intentional forms. How is it that music from the turn of the 20th century became perceived as Medieval?  Who gains, and who loses, when traditional music is taken beyond its native contexts?

Narrative intertwines with field recordings from Sephardic communities of the former Ottoman Empire, modern artists interpretations, and live performance from the Guy Mendilow Ensemble to challenge participants to consider: 

  • What challenges do modern artists face when working with traditional material — especially from endangered cultures?

  • What are the responsibilities of artists inspired to draw on traditional artforms so that they avoid becoming unwitting agents of distortion?

  • What are implications for questions cultural appropriation?

Why it’s relevant: Today, we have unprecedented access to traditions around the world, many of which are fading, like traditional Sephardic contexts from the former Ottoman Empire. Many artists are inspired by traditional art forms, and want to draw on them in their own work. There is a set of questions with which such artists must tangle. By engaging with these questions deliberately and honestly, they may advance awareness and perhaps even aid in preservation efforts, rather than becoming unwitting agents of distortion and cultural misunderstanding.

Further listening:

... a vital and vibrant way to illustrate the possibilities of interfaith and intercultural cooperation...
They are among the finest musicians I have ever heard, and I would recommend them strongly to any university or college campus that cares about diversity, multiculturalism, or interfaith cooperation.
— Greg Mcgonigle, Tufts University, Medford, MA

The Mirror of Story

• University  - Adult • Single Session • Length: 60-90 minutes • Class visit or public lecture • Configuration: Trio or Quintet
•  Relevant to: History/Cultural Studies/Judaic & Near-Eastern Studies/Global Studies/Music/Ethnomusicology

“Because of  indifference, one dies before one actually dies” — Elie Wiesel

Cavalry on the eve of the Battle of the Frontiers, 1914. The romance of war as felt by those riding off, and as exemplified in pre-WWI songs

Cavalry on the eve of the Battle of the Frontiers, 1914. The romance of war as felt by those riding off, and as exemplified in pre-WWI songs

Creating the motivation to care — seeing with open eyes and the combined power of empathy and understanding — is vital if we are to learn from history and avoid repeating mistakes of the past.  So much of what drives shows like The Forgotten Kingdom is the unique ability of evocative stories, together with the direct emotional language of music, to transport audiences to the long-ago-and-far-away... in order to raise a mirror for our own here-and-now.
The Forgotten Kingdom tells of the passing of an older age whose ending begins with WWI and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and concludes definitively with WWII. The progression can be traced in the imagery of the songs themselves. For example, compare the  armies and battles portrayed in pre- WWI songs with those that come after.
There are haunting parallels between those times and ours, perhaps most strikingly the rise of such early twentieth century Utopian movements as fascism.

Through narrative and live musical performance, this talk illustrates:

The realities that armies encountered on the battlefield. War begins to be portrayed in starkly different terms in the songs people sing

The realities that armies encountered on the battlefield. War begins to be portrayed in starkly different terms in the songs people sing

  • The ways that pre WWI imagery contrasts with imagery from the fascist era

  • Disconcerting similarities and encouraging differences between the 1930s and our time today

  • How stories coming from remote, overlooked times and places can be made to resonate with modern imaginations

Why it’s relevant: As we question democratic values, civil rights and political communication,  stories and compelling music provide a platform to safely engage with modern dilemmas.

Further listening: National Endowment for the Arts Art Works podcast with Guy Mendilow

Further Reading: 


Listening Through The Music: Team-Building Through Improvisation

• University /Teacher Training/Leadership Program • 1-3 day program • Length: 60-120 minute sessions • Class visit • Group size: typically max 15. Call to discuss Your Goals   • Configuration: Solo •  Relevant to: Music Education/Music/Leadership Programs

from Olive Branch Mid-East educators Journal published by Seeds of Peace - torn edges.jpg

Exciting, quickly learned improv games give participants experience critical to working with others: the abilities to tune in, connect, and respond spontaneously and meaningfully to one another to make fresh, fulfilling music.

Geared for music educators as well as classroom teachers, this experiential workshop delves into the theory and practice of team building and the cultivation of leadership through games in musical improvisation. 

This workshop requires no previous musical experience. Participants should come ready to move and play. This workshop has used by mediation organizations like Seeds of Peace and featured at universities and conservatories including the Longy School of Music of Bard College and Moravian University.

Listening Through the Music is grounded in principles of Dalcroze Education

Further Reading:


Guy Mendilow

M.M. Longy School of Music; International Certificate, Dalcroze Eurhythmics, Longy School of Music; B.A. Oberlin College

Guy Mendilow is Director of Music and Education for the Guy Mendilow Ensemble, "An international tour de force” (Bethlehem Morning Call) from the Middle-East, South and North America. The Ensemble combines world-class musicianship with cinematic storytelling in shows that “explode with artistry, refinement, and excitement” (Hebrew Union College), whisking audiences to distant times and picturesque places to stir highly resonant connections to contemporary struggles and dilemmas.  

The Guy Mendilow Ensemble was distinguished by the National Endowment for the Arts for public engagement with diverse and excellent art and the strengthening of communities through the arts, and is the recipient of grant awards from foundations like The Boston Foundation, New England Foundation for the Arts, Arts Midwest and Western Arts Alliance.

Alongside performance, Mendilow is active in music education, pursuing Dalcroze Education as a means of cultivating musicality while fostering vital skills such as deep focus and the sense of contribution, capability and belonging that together form esteem. Mendilow designs custom artist residencies for leading performing arts organizations like Celebrity Series of Boston and including innovative storytelling/songwriting projects with at-risk populations.

Mendilow’s research interests include music and culture of Sephardic communities  of Salónica,in the early twentieth  century.

Mendilow is a guest artist-lecturer in  universities across the U.S. including Harvard University, Cornell University, Brandeis University, Oberlin College, University of Oregon and the University of Washington, leads children's workshops in schools worldwide and directs the Dalcroze School of Boston, offering Dalcroze Education for children and adults in the Boston area.