Bringing Music to the Community
SCU’s Ray Furuta combines experiential learning, social justice, and music to connect and engage his students with local marginalized communities.
By Ally O’Connor ’20
Last year, adjunct faculty member Ray Furuta (Music) created and taught a new Experiential Learning for Social Justice (ELSJ) course, titled “Music in the Community.” Bringing the social justice element to Santa Clara University’s Music Department, Furuta explains that the course’s intention was to “have students use music as a vehicle to connect, engage, and bond with marginalized communities in our region. Subsequently, they become aware and sensitive to the varying social gaps that exist not even five miles away from our campus. Though these “on-the-surface” differences exist, our humanity is what makes us so much alike—and the profound enlightenment and realization of this is the ultimate goal.”
After studying music all throughout his academic career, becoming an accomplished concertizing solo flautist, and founding his own nonprofit that explores the intersection between arts, cultural diversity, technology, and classical chamber music, Furuta was thrilled by the opportunity to devise his own ELSJ curriculum. Describing his course planning, Furuta says that “I love helping people. I have spent a huge part of my career rolling up my sleeves to use my music as a tool to connect with people and communities who are in need, and share whatever I am able to.” He continues that “while I still do a lot of this work myself, I have found that my personal impact can be exponentially amplified by exposing my students to this work and encouraging them to explore engaging in this type of service themselves. The goal is to bring an understanding of humanity and benevolence to my students—and I am incredibly proud that we’ve been able to do just that.” Thanks to the mentorship of Jennifer Merritt (Ignatian Center) and Andrea Brewster (Curriculum Manager; Experiential Learning for Social Justice), Furuta was able to bring this class to fruition.
In its duration, “Music in the Community” explores a variety of contexts surrounding the communities in focus, while also exploring a variety of musicians and organizations who use music as a gateway to reach communities and ignite social change. The majority of the time, however, is spent away from SCU’s campus, engaging with these very communities. Furuta shares that in Spring of 2019 the focus was on Title 1 schools and incarcerated youth. This year, while online, the class is connecting and collaborating with homeless and veteran women.
When asked about a favorite moment in the ELSJ, Furuta responds first that “there have been so many great moments,” but that if he had to pick one, “we had a student—who is particularly passionate about electronic music—who brought their passion to our Title 1 school community partner. After completing the course, this student has continued conversation about building an electronic music component to their program.”
Going forward, Furuta says that “I love this class. I am hoping that I will be given the opportunity to expand the presence and intersection of the Arts and Experiential Learning for Social Justice curriculum here at SCU. I have dreams of creating an arts and corrections course, arts and homelessness course, and designing immersion trip opportunities to shadow my personal projects at the U.S./Mexican border and in the Middle East.”
May 27, 2020
The Spring 2019 Music in the Community class.