Intercultural communication is and has always been an integral part of my (Amie Maciszewski’s) life. Growing up in rural New Mexico in a Polish immigrant family, I was exposed from infancy to at least three cultures and languages.
Because I was bilingual in Polish and English, it was relatively easy for me to acquire a level of proficiency in Spanish and French by the time I was a teenager. This instilled in me not only a deep curiosity about and appreciation of diversity but also a keen awareness of social inequality. Thus, as a youth I began my lifelong quest to grasp the nuances of very different cultures found in their respective expressive traditions.
After completing my university studies in anthropology and music at University of New Mexico, I set out to experience the cultures I was reading about, traveling overland to India in 1976. My prior exposure to the music of the Indian subcontinent consisted of recordings of the Beatles and other pop musicians experimenting with Indian instruments for “exotic” sound-bytes and Ravi Shankar’s pioneering work in introducing Indian classical music to the west. I thought I would dabble in learning sitar.
But once I reached India and experienced the sound of sitar live for the first time in a touristy sitar shop in Benares, India – I was spellbound. It was an entire shift in consciousness, and I have not looked back since.
I have chosen the lifelong study of the complex and diverse music culture of the Indian subcontinent because I believe that understanding one culture in depth will facilitate understanding of and appreciation for other cultures. In my four decades plus of close association with the Indian subcontinent and its people and culture, I have acquired fluency in Bengali, and proficiency in Hindi as well as in spoken Urdu.
I seek to re-present the music and culture of South Asia, in which I have been immersed for more than half of my life, in a manner that is accessible to people of diverse backgrounds, generations, and abilities. I use my grounding in this music and culture as a foundation on which to lead students and community members in the exploration of the rich diversity of music and dance in the world, thus raising people’s awareness and, ultimately, their respect for different types of this ultimate human expression.
Through teaching music lessons and directing ensembles, I facilitate students of Hindustani music in the discovery of this art form’s formidable challenge, transformative quality, and joyous inspiration. I strive to motivate students and nurture their confidence and creativity by providing situations for them to interact musically, sometimes performing together in public contexts. My belief is that practicing this music and participating in its culture in diaspora will lead students from diverse backgrounds to improve their analytical, problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication skills, as well as broaden their global awareness and conception of sound and culture.
Thus, my role is that of a cultural mediator between music makers and performing artists of diverse communities, academia, and the public sector. In other words, I advocate for an interdisciplinary approach to the study and practice of musics around the world as an exercise in cultural connectedness.