Music Competition Provides Upbeat Introduction to World Cultures
In a video introducing himself to the community of Fort Dorchester High School, Christian Moreno noted that he loves soccer (and coaching goalies, in particular). So, it’s unsurprising that he came up with a project that introduces students to global culture via a tournament-style competition.
A Spanish teacher at the high school in North Charleston, South Carolina, Moreno has more than 20 years of classroom experience. He’s originally from Colombia, and he came to the USA with Educational Partners International (EPI) back in 2018. As part of EPI’s program, teachers participate in cross-cultural activities that help build mutual understanding across borders. Through the years, the activities have allowed Moreno to introduce students to Colombia’s indigenous peoples; the country’s holidays, climate, and dress; its culinary traditions and music; and how the country reacted to COVID-19. He’s done so through a variety of means: Zoom calls, video and PowerPoint demonstrations, and pen pal exchanges.
Last fall, Moreno had an ingenious idea. Working with his school’s language department and Spanish Multicultural Club, he selected music videos to represent 21 Hispanic countries in a type of cultural tournament. Students, teachers, and school staff could vote for the most interesting entry, taking into account each video’s music, language, melody, imagery, and performance. Arranged as a bracket tournament, the competition allowed the high school community to vote 13 times. Spread out over four rounds, the contest initially saw the 21 countries divided into seven groups (with three countries per group) – all going head to head until one country emerged victorious. Venezuela beat out Guatemala in the final round. (Nacho’s song “La Buena” won out over David 502’s “Guatemala es mi Tierra.”)
After the competition concluded, Moreno didn’t end things there. He continued the contest in the spring, this time expanding the competition to encompass languages of the world. This iteration of the project saw 18 languages, represented by as many countries, facing off in a bracket. In the final nine days of the competition, participants cast 1,804 votes.
The final winner? Jamaican English, beating out German. Mr. Vegas’ video for the song “The Voices of Sweet Jamaica” earned the victory.
The real winner, though, was the school community. They benefited from Moreno’s efforts to spread his love for Spanish and to prompt interest in learning a second language.
In the end, Moreno’s hard work and out-of-the-box thinking didn’t escape folks’ notice – and he won a trophy of his own. The school awarded him their “Picante Award,” given to teachers who add spice to their teaching style.
The beat will go on next school year, too. As a coda, Moreno is now preparing the project for the district level.
The value of the project may best be summed up by Anfibio. A singer from Equatorial Guinea, his “Un Solo Corazon” was among the songs competing in the Spanish version of the competition. He responded when Moreno reached out to him via a YouTube comment.
“Thank you for using my music as a cultural element,” he said in a message recorded in Spanish and translated by Moreno. “I am happy that from there you can listen to what I produce here. It is the same language, and I think it is a good opportunity to be able to distribute it to the whole world and to be able to share the same culture.”
Performer David 502 also recorded a grateful message in Spanish. “I send greetings from Guatemala to you and the entire community of Fort Dorchester,” he said. “Thank you for sharing my culture and my language. Keep learning Spanish and enjoying what the Hispanic culture has to offer you. Thank you very much for considering my work, my art. For me, it is an honor to share with you all and send you greetings.”