Associate Professor of Music
Growing up in Martin, most people would not imagine that Dr. Julie Hill’s area of musical expertise is the black music of Northeastern Brazil. Hill (‘94 UTM) thinks the only explanation is that with a university education, there are no limitations.
Hill has traveled to Brazil many times and constantly witnesses the way music saves lives. She researches music, yes, but more importantly, she documents how music changes the musicians. Now, her mission as a UT Martin associate professor of music is to share this same way of experiencing music with her students.
Hill has twice performed internationally with her students, in Brazil, in 2005 and in Mexico, in 2008. Each time, her students were influenced long term by the experience. In Brazil, they performed with the university percussion ensemble in Salvador Da Bahia, using their instruments. Hill remembers the shock on her students’ faces when they saw the state of the percussion gear. Her students gained an appreciation for all that they have available in the UT Martin program. Additionally, the music classes were taught by ear and required singing and dancing as part of the percussion lesson. They were freed from the notes on the page and were astounded by how creative they felt in this new way of learning music.
“The energy that evening brought with it no need for a Portuguese translator, nor formal music instruction; rather it lifted all barriers of culture, language, race, socio-economic level and allowed musicians and audience members alike to experience the power of the music,” said Hill. One student on that trip went into a percussion performance program for his master’s degree that specializes in Afro Brazilian music. The opportunities he now has are all based on the experiences from that trip.
Similarly, in Mexico, the students gained an appreciation for how much easier everything is for Americans. They saw armed guards and border patrols. But they also experienced the hospitality of the Mexican student hosts.
“By creating personal relationships on our trip to Mexico, we no longer watch the news abroad with a sense of disconnection,” said Hill. “This has inspired my students to be more active engaged citizens of the world. This will, in turn, spread exponentially to those they will teach and influence in the future.”