In the Loop
Alumni News : Apr 15, 2015

Bringing music education to the West Bank

By Nadia Durrani

School of Music alumnus Donald DeVito (Ph.D. Music Education ‘06) recently had the opportunity to collaborate with the Sabreen Association for Artistic Development to help public schools in the West Bank incorporate music education into their curriculum for grades 1-4. His board member position on the International Society for Music Education (ISME) and his job as a music and special education teacher at the Sidney Lanier Center in Gainesville made him the ideal person for Sabreen coordinator George Ghattas to reach out to for help.

Currently, there are no music teachers appointed at any of the 2,400 public and UNRWA schools in the West Bank and more than 400 schools in Gaza. One of the main reasons for this is because there are no pre-service or in-service programs for teachers in music education. DeVito’s role was to help Sabreen get into contact with the right people so that Palestinian educators can get the training they need to teach music in schools.

“I was able to put Sabreen in touch with the Porto Polytechnic Institute in Portugal and they are collaborating now,” said DeVito. “It looks like teachers are going to have the official training that they need to get within the public school curriculum, and that’s by having university training in the field of music education.”

DeVito was also able to help Sabreen by utilizing his contacts at UF. When the organization needed an example of what a training course would look like for music teachers, DeVito reached out to Dr. Russell Robinson who gave him the syllabus for UF’s Music for the Elementary Child course. The course shows pre-service elementary classroom teachers how to structure basic music instruction in the elementary classroom, as well as how to integrate musical concepts into all areas of the general elementary curriculum.

“Russell sent me the syllabus and they translated it to Arabic and shared it with the people who were going to the Palestinian Education Council for approval,” said DeVito. “So, you have the Porto Polytechnic Institute in Portugal which is going to be training teachers in the West Bank on the concept of what a course like this would look like – and they have a collaborative example from UF.”

“The most rewarding thing about being part of a project like this is being able to take collaboration from an organization like ISME and from contacts at UF and being able to utilize those in a positive way,” said DeVito. “I’ve developed a lot of skills in engaging my students with the outside world and raising awareness for music education. Now, I’m able to do it on a larger scale for other people – in this case, the entire West Bank.”

As for future possibilities with the Sabreen Association for Artistic Development, DeVito hopes that they can find a way to include special education training in the curriculum so that people with disabilities have the opportunity to get into music education.

“I have the public school part of it going with them right now,” said DeVito. “Once that’s established, the goal is to be able to go back and do the same thing for special education in music.”