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World Music

With support from the Arts Institute, the World Music program brings distinguished guest artists and activities to all three campuses for the benefit of students, faculty, staff, and the community.  Through its artist residencies, workshops, performances, and classes, students and the general public alike  are given exceptional opportunities to work with and learn from distinguished professionals and scholars.

The World Music Program supports the Arts Institute Mission by: 

  • providing exceptional creative opportunities for students, faculty, staff, and the community
  • enriching the experiences of MC students outside of the classroom, allowing them to engage with the arts in various cultures
  • promoting MC’s arts programs beyond the College’s three campuses and invigorate the college community by offering arts events of exceptional quality and scope
  • enriching the cultural life of Montgomery County through collaboration with internationally recognized performers on the world music stage

World Arts Festival

The Montgomery College Arts Institute World Arts Festival is an annual year-long celebration of music, dance, literature, storytelling, film, and visual art from around the world and features artist residencies, workshops, lectures and performance events by internationally recognized musicians, artists, dancers, scholars and writers. About to enter its 17th year, a primary purpose of the festival is to bring different cultures and communities together through education and experience. In striving for authenticity and quality in multi-cultural education, the MC World Arts Festival has offered a variety of program reflecting our community of over 171 different nationalities. 

World Ensemble

The World Ensemble is a diverse collective of instrumentalists and vocalists that combine their individual experiences and personalities reflecting the diversity of Montgomery College to create a myriad of musical styles from around the globe.

World Ensemble is a one-credit course (MUSC 161D) that is open to all students, and students are encouraged to join at all levels of musical experience. Our current focus is on the musics of the Caribbean, including reggae, calypso, zouk, biguine, and steel pan, while incorporating instruments and techniques from a multitude of cultures. 


World Music Fieldwork by MC Scholars

World Ensemble and Ethnomusicology

The World Ensemble 

By Liz Plum, Montgomery College First Year Scholar

Professor Avery founded the World Ensemble five years ago. It is incredible that this professor has also toured with Sting and spoken to the Dalai Lama at one point in her life. Both her rich background in music and experience as a talented musician allow her to bring the benefits of world music to her students. Professor Avery’s classes are full of energy, which prompts her students to develop a genuine interest in music. As a student in her classroom, I can sincerely say I have gained a new outlook on music and its effects on society. As a result, for my music fieldwork project in Core I decided to study the World Ensemble.

It’s fair to say that all of us at one point or another have noticed the tremendous diversity present at Montgomery College. Instead of becoming a barrier, diversity has actually been one of the driving forces for success at this college. The Ensemble has taken this diversity and incorporated it as a major component of the program, consequently bringing different cultures together. As a result, the students involved with the World Ensemble have acquired a taste for multicultural music and somewhere along the process became united as a group.

It was an honor to watch the World Ensemble group perform. The auditorium was packed. There were even people standing in the aisles, just trying to catch a glimpse of the performance. It was amazing. The members had smiles on their faces, and the performance was full of life. Earlier I had also learned that the members are at different levels of musicianship, but even so, they played beautifully together.

What allowed them to play magnificently together was this bond that exists among the members of the World Ensemble. Their rehearsal is a place with a friendly and relaxing atmosphere, allowing them to further develop social skills. They learn the importance of trust and bonding, and both these attributes are especially important outside the classroom. The Ensemble is also a place where students let go of their stress and express themselves through music. Besides these, there are countless rewards to those who choose to be part of this group, including self-confidence and self- discipline. Diana Downey, an intern and the violin player, describes it as “One of those classes where you go in one way and come out a whole new person with lots of friends and music in your heart.” The World Ensemble is also an opportunity for international students to adapt to a new country while keeping their identities, which is extremely important since Montgomery College has students from all over the world. It was then I concluded that the World Ensemble is so much more than a class; it is life-changing experience.

According to Melanie Pinkert, adjunct faculty in the music department, “We all have a common goal, and share the investment, the frustrations, and the triumphs of moving toward and finally reaching that goal.” Thankfully, the World Ensemble continues to grow in number and talent.

For anyone who finds oneself trapped in a world filled with tension, pressure and deadlines, the World Ensemble is the place to be. This musical community thrives in the heart of Rockville and its doors are open to the people. Many members, like Jermaine Swaby, feel privileged to be part of such a prestigious program. It was through the completion of this fieldwork project that my eyes were opened to a college truly filled with “endless opportunities.”


Ethnomusicology at MC

 by First Year MC Scholars Cristian Barrera and Jessica Cedillo

(The excerpt below has been edited by their professor, Dawn Avery)


“El Salvador is geographically formed by 14 states and three main zones. Each zone is home to a variety of dances and costumes that are popular to local customs and manners.  The composers and lyricists are often well-known known as folklorists, musicians and poets, as they artistically reflect routine activities.

As part of my quest to know as much as possible about Salvadorian folkloric music, I studied the life of Pancho Lara.  Pancho Lara’s granddaughter, Mrs. Mireya de Ferrufino, granted me an interview about her grandfather’s music, life and legacy. “I am working hard so that my grandfather’s music which is the identity of all the Salvadorians in and out of the country, is kept alive and remembered.”

Pancho Lara was born in Santa Ana, El Salvador. As a child, Pancho Lara was forced to leave school so that he could economically contribute to his family. However, during his youth he became inspired to learn both music and literacy on his own. During his life time he wrote poetry that was able to depict splendid landscapes, children, birds and animals. Before the age of fifteen, he began to write poetry which he then he used as lyrics for his folksongs.  His most famous song is entitled “El Carbonero” meaning “The Coalman.” This song according to Salvadorians has become the second hymn of the nation while “The Coffee Cutters” is widely known for its imagery and rapid beat. “He was a very jovial person. He was detail driven; he liked to observe people’s activities for long periods of time. He wrote on the behavior of people and animals without over thinking it too much. He grabbed his guitar and played creating music and lyrics at the same time! There were times when he wrote the lyrics of his songs on the floor and walls so that he wouldn’t forget, even in napkins, whatever could be used to write on and capture those moments of creation.”  (Ferrufino interview)

Pancho Lara traveled throughout Central America and went to Europe. These life experiences shaped his thinking and became intrinsically connected with the lyrics of his songs.  As a thinker and an observer; his landscape observations are lively transmitted and felt in his songs which are categorized as “musica popular contumbrista”  or custom-popular music that depicts social and cultural activities and have a specific author. Here is part of such a song entitled “Las Cortadoras” (translated by Cristian Barrera):

The Female Coffee Cutters

It has turned red; already the coffee plantation has matured.
The cutters arrive happily with their baskets to cut coffee.
Look at that beauty, look how beautiful,
Look at that wealth, how much glamour, what happiness in the coffee plantation!

Fill the aprons
female cutters go walking
as they remove from the branches pretty diamonds of rich honey

Mr. Lara died in May 1989 leaving behind a musical legacy as a national treasure to El Salvador.


Fieldwork excerpt of interview and translation by MC Scholars Cristian Barrera and Jessica Cedillo about the great El Salvadorian Musician Pancho Lara:

Q: Mrs. Ferrufino, what is your relationship with Mr. Lara?

A: I am his granddaughter, and I am working hard so that my grandfather’s music which is the identity of all the Salvadorians in and out of the country is maintained alive and remembered.

Q: How did your grandfather become interested in composing and playing folkloric music?

A: Since he was a kid, my grandfather showed interest in playing music and he learned through books. He created his music without any help. His love for his Pulgarcito was what pushed him to carry his music beyond Salvadorian frontiers.  Actually, his music is not totally considered folkloric music since all of them have his name as the author, therefore songs like El Carbonero, Las Cortadoras, Chalatenango, El Pregón de los nísperos, Los Izalqueños, Las Floreras del Boquerón, Jayaque, Chiltiupan, La molienda, Canto a mi raza, and others are considered by many as our popular music.

Q: Where do you reside?

A: I live in San Salvador, El Salvador

Q: Was there one song that Pancho Lara enjoyed playing the most? And for how long did he play and compose music?

A: My grandfather enjoyed his music so much that all of the songs were important to him. Just like his kids, there wasn’t a “favorite” song. What captivates one when listening to his songs is how each song depicts culture, traditions, form of life, and the time period he created them (1930-1980).  He composed throughout his entire life and was always creating music for his country, for the birds, the animals, the plants, the grandparents, and the people. Pancho Lara lived until he was 88 years old.

Q: What was his inspiration?

A: My grandpa was a very jovial person. He was detail driven; he liked to observe people’s activities for long periods of time. He wrote on the behavior of people and animals without over thinking it too much. He grabbed his guitar and played, creating music and lyrics at the same time! There were times when he wrote the lyrics of his songs on the floor and walls so that he wouldn’t forget, even in napkins, whatever could be used to write on and capture those moments of creation.

Q: How was it that he began to compose music?

A: Before the age of fifteen he began to compose short songs for other kids. He was helped by his mother, who was called “little-flower” because of her beauty.

Q: Mr. Lara was a poet, how did his poetry influence his folkloric music?

A: My grandpa considered his poetry as musical. Thus, his poetry and music were one. They were fused.

Q: What are the teachings of Mr. Lara's Music? 

A: In his songs he expresses emotions. The well known ones show the customs of the time in which he lived, they show a working country that besides the struggles knows how to succeed. Also, some of the less known songs show his admiration of women, the respect, the love for animals, kids and the flowers.

Q: In your opinion what is the impact of folk dance?

A: The dance and the music are complementary in representing and recognizing the customs and traditions of our people. The folkloric dances should be accompanied with a marimba instead of a recording on a CD.

Q: How has Mr. Lara impacted you and the country? 
A:. In my life I have had the privilege of being his granddaughter. He has impacted my life greatly. When he died I was eight years old.  I am 27 now, and for the past four years as a family we have resurrected his life and legacy. We have done this so that the people do not forget him.  We want them to know a little bit more about his life. To me, he was a warrior trying to promote his music even through the criticism and lack of support. This is why we have registered his work with copy rights in the Centro Nacional de Registro, and I created the website, There is an exhibit of Pancho Lara in the museum of anthropology at the Tecnologica University. Many people that have seen the website say it is a great idea to demonstrate the work of such a humble man. They say that upon listening to “El Carbonero” they have cried of emotion and that they identify themselves with the music. 


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What People are Saying
Through world music, I have found a new understanding of my own music, the music from my country. In fact, in the past I didn’t like traditional music at all. Since my participation in World Music class and World Arts Festival events, I have taken time to understand the life philosophy taught in the traditional music. I have discovered that traditional songs are full of life lessons. World music has helped me to break the wall between me and traditional music.  I’m now also open and interested in music of other countries, too. I think that music is a powerful tool, which keeps humanity together in peace.
Valeria Tingbo