Spring 2024 First Year Seminar

SALSA: Multicultural Music of the Caribbean - FSEM 100-107 (CRN 6630)

Have you ever been to a Latino party? Have you ever listened to salsa? Have you ever danced salsa? What do you know about salsa? This course explores the origin and history of one of the most versatile and popular musical genres of the 20th and 21st centuries. Salsa has transcended the borders of the Caribbean and the entire American continent to European and Asian latitudes because of its complex and irresistible rhythms, its attractive melodies, and its sensual and romantic lyrics. What is the musical power of salsa? What is inside of this contagious rhythm that communes magically with the content of a text? How can performers improvise words and new phrases without departing from the main message? We will examine the different styles of salsa in its various forms and its vocabulary and slang to identify musical momentums, as well as to recognize their rhythmic structures and sounds. Will you dare to play it, dance it and sing it?

Your Professor

Jesus Alfonzo is an associate professor of music in viola, chamber music and music history at Stetson University, where he also conducts the Viola Consort and leads the Viola Clinic. He is also a member of the Bach Festival Orchestra in Winter Park, Fla. and has been a member of the Rios Reyna String Quartet since 1987. He received a diploma and post-graduate Diploma from the Juilliard School of Music and a master of music and doctorate in musical arts degrees from Michigan State University.

Alfonzo was born in Caracas, Venezuela. He is a founding member of the EL SISTEMA, The Venezuelan National System of Youth Orchestras, in which he had the opportunity to develop both his teaching and playing skills. In 1980 and 1981, he was principal violist of the Jeunesses Musicales World Orchestra. Later, he became the principal violist of the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, a position he held for sixteen years. In his vast orchestral experience, he has worked with distinguished conductors and soloists including Claudio Abbado, Gustavo Dudamel, Leonard Bernstein, Jose Antonio Abreu, Maxim Schostakovitch, Kristoff Penderecki, Zubin Mehta, Serge Baudo, Carlos Chavez, Jerzy Semkov, Eduardo Mata, Claudio Arrau, Joseph Silverstein, Mstislav Rostropovich, Pinchas Zuckerman, Yo-Yo Ma, Monserrat Caballe, Jean Pierre Rampal, Yehudi Menuhin and Henry Szeryng. He has taught in Venezuela at the Conservatorio de Musica Simon Bolivar, the Institute of Musical Studies and the Colegio Emil Friedman.

Since 1998, he has given an annual series of viola and string pedagogy master classes at EL SISTEMA in almost every state of Venezuela. In 2008, he wrote the First Catalogue for Latin American Viola Music.

Advancing Human Rights and Social Justice - FSEM 100-137 (CRN 7401)

This community-based course introduces human rights, social justice, and environmental justice theoretical frameworks and issues from global perspectives designed and taught by award-winning Professor of Social Justice Education, Rajni Shankar-Brown. Through interdisciplinary service learning, students will have hands-on opportunities to explore art as activism and participate in civic engagement. Specific topics including the intersectionality of identities including race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, religion, ability, nationality, language, and education will be examined, and provide roots to further personal and intellectual development and global citizenship. Diverse texts (readings, films, music, etc.) will include equity-centered explorations of history and the complex interplay of theories in a pluralistic society, with opportunities to apply them to current equity and inclusion issues. The course encourages reflective practice, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity through community engagement art projects focusing on historically situated and currently unfolding social justice issues. Writing as an inquiry-oriented and developmental process will be emphasized, along with multimodal literacies and communication with attention to applied critical thinking. Civic and community engagement and service-learning experiences in collaboration with diverse community partners, including public schools and nonprofit organizations, are required for the successful completion of this course.

Your Professor

Rajni Shankar-Brown, MA, MBA, PhD, is an internationally award-winning Professor and the Jessie Ball duPont Endowed Chair of Social Justice Education at Stetson University, as well as the recipient of Stetson’s most prestigious awards -- the McEniry Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Hand Award for Distinguished Faculty Achievement. She is also the President of the National Coalition for the Homeless Board, author, community organizer, cultural strategist, poet, artist, and a human rights and environmental justice activist. She is the Founder and the Executive Director of the Institute for Catalyzing Equity, Justice, and Social Change and she serves as the Co-Chair of Equity and Justice for the International Society for Teacher Education and Information Technology. Dr. Shankar-Brown actively works at international, national, state and local levels to confront systemic oppression and advance justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion, including with the United Nations and U.S. Federal Agencies. She has presented around the globe and published articles, book chapters, and creative works in leading academic sources, as well as a globally celebrated collection of poetry (Tuluminous), and an education book series including Bending the Arc Toward Justice: Equity-Focused Practices for Educational Leaders and Re-Envisioning Education: Affirming Diversity and Advancing Justice. In addition to being a passionate leader and scholar, she is a dedicated Amma (which means “Mom” in her first language, Tamil) who loves sunflowers and masala chai.