Music is a universal language. Despite differences in styles, cultures, rhythms, etiquette and ideals, the powerful connections music fosters bring people together the world over…and what better example of that transcendence than the melting pot of jazz in the classical music mecca of Vienna! Once home to Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn, Vienna’s musical scene has long since opened up to the soulful melodies of jazz, allowing musicians from all over the world to come together and create a unique blend of genres, rhythms, and cultures.
In today’s interconnected world, international collaboration has become more important than ever, and not just for genre-bending musicians. Cross-cultural education is just one challenge in the crucial journey to prepare students for navigating a diverse world with confidence and respect. It’s a challenge that IU has embraced wholeheartedly. One initiative to ensure every IU graduate is prepared to compete in the international labor market is the Global Classroom Fellowship, which gives instructors the opportunity to add an international dimension to their course by partnering with a partner university abroad. With the support of IU Global leaders, a cohort of their peers, and funding, faculty collaborate with an international colleague to create meaningful collaborative projects with students from around the globe—without leaving their IU campus.
Enter Monika Herzig, accomplished jazz pianist, composer and senior lecturer at IU. Herzig’s passion for music and experience in the industry led her to apply to be a Global Classroom Fellow with the proposal for Music Industry II, a course that gives students a breadth of career options across the musical landscape.
“I had done four overseas courses before,” Herzig explains, thinking back to how she originally envisioned the Global Classrooms class. “I taught one [IU] course – Comparative Music Industry – that I took 3 times to Austria as an overseas experience, where students were immersed in Austrian culture to explore the differences between the industry there and in America. Then, just before the pandemic, in 2019, we went to Berlin and Weimar with the class. I always see how eye-opening it is for the students to do these overseas adventures, and with the last class and grad in 2018 we actually visited the JAM lab.” The challenge for Global Classrooms? How to bring these eye-opening experiences to students who don’t travel to Vienna.
Music Industry II offered students an in-depth exploration of the music industry, from live performance and artistry to publishing rights and record label operations. IU students were joined in their efforts by counterparts in Vienna, Austria – home to the JAM MUSIC LAB, a private university dedicated to exploring and teaching music forms of the 20th century and beyond, with a focus on popular music styles. Throughout the class, students in Bloomington and Vienna examined the components of the industry and the mechanics behind a successful music operation working together virtually in mixed teams.
For their final project, students collaborated on a course-long festival project with their Austrian counterparts. The festival project was particularly timely, as it took place during the peak of the pandemic when live music was facing unprecedented challenges. Students had the unique opportunity to work with Fritz Thom, director of the Vienna Jazz Festival Jazz Fest Wien, who shared his insights and experiences on how the festival operates and functions. The focus of the project was to analyze the future of the festival market and explore ways to expand audiences and bring the festival industry into the future.
In addition to being a timely and practical project, Herzig was impressed by the unique impact it had on students taking the course. “This was an invaluable cultural experience,” says Herzig. “When you’re in the music industry, your work concerns everybody – the project let students take a critical look at festivals and the issues we’ve run into with them. They had their own perspectives with insight into the European market. Those are insights they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.” The course was not just a chance to learn about different cultures and traditions, but also to develop a global perspective that will allow them to better navigate the global music industry—or any live-event–post-graduation.
The Global Classroom initiative strives to create opportunities just like this for students and faculty across our campuses – and the world. With these invaluable connections, IU facilitates the global exchange of ideas and cultures, fostering richer and more diverse educational experiences for everyone involved. Herzig, her students, and their collaboration with the JAM Music Lab is just one example of faculty and students enhancing academic and personal growth through the program – but Herzig isn’t the only fellow! The world of education is constantly evolving, and the need for cross-cultural collaboration has become more critical than ever. Global Classroom allows students to expand their knowledge beyond their home country and gain a better understanding of the world; for faculty, it offers a chance to share ideas and collaborate internationally with other educators, scholars, and experts in their field.
The experience encouraged Herzig to not just focus on physical exchange and travel, but the importance of building relationships across borders, even if classmates never meet in person.
“I am currently teaching and researching at the partner university for a year, building a Center for Artistic Research and an Institute for Jazz and Gender. Some of the students confirmed to me that they are still in touch with each other.,” says Herzig. “I hope to continue creating opportunities for exchange, time and time again.”
And the personal impact it had on Herzig herself? “As a scholar, this program has changed my life. I’ve made so many new connections, built on other coursework using insights from this class, and really grown as an instructor. As an educator, being present and active in the collaboration, I see how this little school in Vienna really connects on an international level – that’s what benefits the students and makes learning happen.
“I learned how important it is to work across cultures and continents. On one hand, there’s a lot of similar issues that we all have to deal with, and it’s good to learn how to deal with them cross-culturally. And, on the other hand, there are different ways of doing things that we also should know. We can’t work in our silos. Everything we do, especially any entertainment industry or the music industry, is not confined to one area, it’s global. It’s crucial to work internationally.”