IDEA: Exploring Possibilities through Innovation and Design

Submitted on Tuesday, 2/3/2015, at 1:51 PM

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The humanness of music

Pioneer Valley Soundscapes expands understanding of music in the community

October 2013William Cumpiano, a master luthier—one who repairs stringed instruments—poses in his workshop on the Northampton-Easthampton town line. Cumpiano was featured in
A Taste of Music in the Pioneer Valley's Puerto Rican Community, one of the many documentaries in the Pioneer Valley Soundscapes archive. Photo by Thomas Sibley '10, story by Jenny Morgan.

In recent years, Assistant Professor of Music Jeffers Engelhardt has been on somewhat of a mission: to get people in the Pioneer Valley thinking “more expansively about the human involvement in music.”

In 2009, Engelhardt made real a piece of this mission by creating the community-based learning course, Pioneer Valley Soundscapes, to enable students to practice fieldwork and document the musical landscape of the region. For Engelhardt, part of thinking expansively about music has also meant blurring the boundaries between the campus and the community—and this spring, he’s introducing new technologies that will enable community participation in Pioneer Valley Soundscapes in unprecedented ways.

The world premiere of a local story: Garden of Martyrs opens September 20

Garden of Martyrs Stage Performance
September 2013story by Jenny Morgan, photo courtesy of Julie Keresztes '12.

On Friday, September 20, Associate Professor of Music and composer Eric Sawyer will debut his second opera, The Garden of Martyrs, at the Academy of Music in Northampton, Mass. When the opera opens, it will be in the same city where, some two hundred years earlier, the events depicted in the opera actually happened. For Sawyer, the power of sharing this local story where it occurred has “continued to sink in.”

How about here? American Studies major foregrounds the local community

September 2013Sojourner Truth's home in Florence, Mass. Photo courtesy of the Sojourner Truth Statue Memorial Committee. Story by Jenny Morgan, CCE staff writer

Founded in 1939, the American Studies department at Amherst is the country’s oldest continuous American Studies department.

Since its creation, faculty and students in the interdisciplinary department have grappled with the questions and problems that have shaped the United States. The department has a long legacy of being at the forefront of many national conversations.

Explore the spring 2013 semester community-based learning courses

January 2013—story by Jenny Morgan, photo courtesy of professor Anna Martini

This spring is going to be another banner semester for community-based learning at Amherst.

With fifteen courses to choose from, students will delve into topics ranging from desegregation in Cambridge, Mass. to hydrogeology in local watersheds. They will create original music, theater, and research.  They will explore, teach, and learn from local communities.

Beyond Shangri-La, Tibetan oral history website, launches

An Unwanted Legacy: Mercury in the Connecticut River Watershed


Mike and Nora
May 2012—story by Jenny Morgan, photo courtesy of Anna Martini

Nearly ten years ago, Associate Professor of Geology Anna Martini took a group of students to the Connecticut River for what Martini thought would be a typical classroom assignment. They set out to investigate the deposition of inorganic mercury from Mount Tom, the coal-fired power plant situated between Holyoke and Easthampton, Massachusetts. After collecting both lichan from trees and sediment from a small lake along the river, the class analyzed their samples and found strikingly high amounts of mercury in both— and what began as a simple classroom experiment quickly became Martini’s newest area of research. Almost a decade later, the project has transformed into a multifaceted, interdisciplinary endeavor that involves both scholars and community stakeholders.

‘Making history come alive’

Amherst and Holyoke Community Colleges team up to recreate Holyoke’s history



As one of the country’s first planned industrial cities, Holyoke, Massachusetts has seemingly always been one step ahead of national trends in changing landscapes and fortunes.