Building Goodwill Ambassadors

Besides helping students discover a bigger world, studying multicultural music promotes goodwill between cultures. MENC member Linda White shares some of her experiences:

  • After White went to New Zealand with a Fulbright-Hays group, she shared the Maori culture with her students. Several years later, a former student brought a transfer student from New Zealand to meet White. An instant friendship began between the two girls based on what White’s student had learned about New Zealand in her elementary music classroom.
  • Shortly after White returned from a trip to Japan, a first-grade Japanese boy joined her class. On his first day, White and her students sang a Japanese song that he knew. The next morning, while White was on “kiss and ride” duty, the boy’s mother told her how thrilled her son was to sing a song he knew on his first day of school. Finding a piece of his home culture at his new school helped him adjust to his new country.
  • White got help from a brother and sister team from Japan when she used Kamishibai story boards in class. The sister helped translate the boards into English. Because the sounds in the Japanese version of the story had special significance, White and the brother took turns reading the story line by line, so the students could enjoy the onomatopoeia (the use of words that mimic sounds) of the Japanese version but understand the story from the English version.

Benefits for Teachers

White believes that teaching music from other cultures has made her a more sensitive teacher. “I’ve been enriched by learning about other countries’ music and culture and by meeting people from so many nations. For every question answered about a culture, another pops up, and I want to learn more. I think this quest for knowledge transfers to my students.” Learning about and visiting other countries has made her more tolerant and open to taking risks and has impassioned her to help students “grow out of their own world and be planted into more global learnings.”

White recommends applying for fellowships to spend time in other countries to learn firsthand about the culture.

MENC Lesson Plans

Kuma San Suite (Japan, Korea, Hopi Indian, African American)
Ulili E: The Sandpiper (Hawaii)
Garifalia (Greece)
Strategies for Teaching K-4 General Music Standard 6A (Native American)
Linda K. White has been an elementary school teacher in Fairfax County, Virginia. She was one of 20 educators nationwide named to USA Today’s 2007 All USA Teacher Team and was honored by the Virginia MEA as General Music Teacher of the Year in 2006, the year she was inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame.


Linda Brown, December 10, 2008, © National Association for Music Education (