Calypso Music, Costa Rica Topics of New Team-Taught Course

Photo of Dr. Warren Anderson, associate professor of cultural anthropology, left, and Dr. Jeffrey Noonan, associate professor of guitar and musicology, right, on their recent research trip to Costa Rica.

Dr. Warren Anderson, associate professor of cultural anthropology, left, and Dr. Jeffrey Noonan, associate professor of guitar and musicology, right, on a recent trip to Costa Rica to conduct research for their team-taught course on Calypso music.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,

April 14, 2009 – Southeast Missouri State University professors, Dr. Jeffrey Noonan, associate professor of guitar and musicology, and Dr. Warren Anderson, associate professor of cultural anthropology, have met regularly for lunch each week of the school year for several years. These lunch meetings grew out of a mutual interest in their respective disciplines and led this year to a research and teaching partnership stretching from the River Campus to Costa Rica. 

The two offered an overview of their joint project to an audience of students and faculty in an Athenaeum Spring Lecture on April 1 in Kent Library.  Noonan and Anderson recounted how they decided to combine their energies and interests for a research project focused on a style of calypso music performed on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.  After some preliminary research, the two drafted a proposal to the Southeast Grants and Research Funding Committee (GRFC) that identified some components of Costa Rican calypsoᾰincluding the use of banjo and English lyricsᾰas worthy of serious scholarly scrutiny. GRFC accepted their proposal and funded a trip to Costa Rica for further research on this topic.

As the two professors planned their research trip, they said they discovered that they had the core element for a team-taught course aimed at advanced anthropology and music students. Their   brainstorming led them to propose such a class to their department chairs and college dean. With the cooperation of these administrators, Anderson and Noonan created a team-taught course that allows them to use their project in Costa Rican calypso music as a means of modeling their own learning to a class.  This course, “MU 403/AN 355 Ethnomusicology” combines music majors and anthropology majors in the same classroom in the new offering being taught this spring.  The 13 music students and 13 anthropology students enrolled in the class are, like their professors, paired in research teams. This is a unique course not only because the professors depend on each other as researchers and teachers, but because the students must also learn to depend on each other for the different components of their projects, Noonan and Anderson say. 

“The music majors are learning how to articulate their knowledge of music in a way that the anthropology students understand, and vice versa,” said senior music major, Ken DeArman.

The professors have designed the course around their fieldwork.  They visited Costa Rica earlier in the semester, giving them the opportunity to involve the students and their learning in the weeks leading up to the trip, and are discussing their findings now that they have returned.

“We are learning with the students,” Noonan said.  “That’s the great thing about being a professor.  This is our day-to-day job, but we are given opportunities to continue to learn and grow in our field.”

“This has been a much different teaching experience for me, because I am practicing my work in front of another professional,” Anderson said.  “This has really turned me into a different kind of ethnographer.”

“I have gained an enormous amount of professional respect, through admiring and watching what my colleague is doing,” Noonan said.

Noonan and Anderson expect to use their findings in the near future for other presentations, articles, and, perhaps, even a book that has already secured a publisher.

 

Dr. Jeffrey Noonan, center, associate professor of guitar and musicology, and Dr. Warren Anderson, right, associate professor of cultural anthropology, meet with Walter Ferguson, the 90-year-old “King of Calypso,” in Cahuita on their recent research trip to Costa Rica.