Music Issue: Playing, studying the world around her

Editor’s note: As the Juno Awards 2013 prepare to celebrate the best of Canadian music this weekend, Western Journalism students help us celebrate the best in Western Music. Read the full Music Issue.

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Playing with other musicians and instruments in her spare time inspires Music Education professor Kari Veblen’s academic life. Every Wednesday, Veblen and a group of friends get together to share their love of music.

“Sometimes we get four, sometimes we get as many as 20,” Veblen said.

Veblen, who has been teaching at Western for 12 years, says these Wednesday sessions have inspired some of her academic papers. “If you can’t write about your friends then who can you write about?” she said.

The sessions used to take place at a local bar in London but, since it closed down, Veblen hosts the sessions at her home. They play whatever tune they know, whether it is Irish or otherwise. If another person knows the tune they join in. She says friends come from nearby towns and invite others. Some even come from as far away as the United States.

During these sessions, friends share songs and learn from each other. “We don’t use sheet music; it’s all in our heads.”

Veblen has a fascination with how people learn. During her sessions she asks herself, who leads the session, how do they lead and how do people learn the pieces? These fundamental questions have furthered her exploration into music education, she said.

It is clear that for Veblen her passion is not just for one instrument, but for music itself.  If you look in her office you’ll see a woman surrounded by books and many different types of instruments, from the autoharp to her current instrument of choice, the tin whistle.

She began to learn how to play the tin whistle while finishing her PhD in Ireland. But she also sings, plays the piano and guitar, to name a few.

For Veblen it’s not about perfecting an instrument, it’s simply about learning.  “I’m not a fabulous musician on every instrument, that’s not the point,” Veblen said. “There are different ways to get into the heart of music.”

Music education is not just her job, it’s her life. She says that anyone with the opportunity can learn music.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” says Elisha Jo, Veblen’s teaching assistant, when referring to her undergraduate class. Jo, 29, who has completed a masters in Music Education, has worked closely with Veblen for two years and is currently working on her PhD.

She says it’s a gift to work alongside a professor who is so attentive to her students. “She sees her students as individuals, and she knows how to pull things out of her students, their talents,” Jo said.

Veblen has just completed a book entitled Community Music Today. She plans to continue teaching and learning new instruments for as long as she possibly can. While acknowledging that she’s a music addict, Veblen adds, “music is something we crave.”