Ramblin’ Across the Andes: Accessing Culture and Language Through American Folk Music is a project designed by teachers and musicians, Matthew Nelson, Brendan Mulvihill, Erin Johnson and Jordan Stern. The goal of this project is to help students improve their English in a fun and interactive environment, while exposing them to certain aspects of American culture not found in Hollywood films or American pop music. We visit various English language summer camps & schools where we conduct classes, give presentations, and play concerts of American folk music. We aim to provide English teachers with educational resources and materials for implementing such curriculum in their own classes & present teaching workshops as well.
Workshops for students combine highly interactive language study with games and singing. Students will have the opportunity to practice and improve their English speaking skills with native speakers, learn about American folk music and culture, and learn traditional American songs. Most of all, we expect the students to have a lot of fun!
In workshops for teachers we share our ideas for fun and innovative ways to incorporate authentic cultural materials into ESL lessons. We provide materials about American folk music and give ideas on how to use them with students. We also share our skills and experience in using new media resources in the ESL classroom.
Here’s a video from one of our concerts last year in Concepcion! In addition to workshops with students and teachers, we also organize free community concerts in order to share our traditional American folk music!
Brendan Mulvihill was born and raised in the Philadelphia area. He began to become familiar with music when his parents sent him to a music preschool, but once he took up mandolin lessons at the age of twelve, Brendan has been deeply involved with playing and composing music. Throughout his school years he taught himself the basics of many different instruments, including guitar, ukulele, bass, and drums. He attended Temple University in Philadelphia. His music is inspired by his traveling. Now he lives and works in Philadelphia as a concert promoter and musician.
Brendan has had a lot of experience as a teacher in private ESL and German language schools, at Temple University, and at Tomsk Polytechnic University, where he worked on a Fulbright fellowship.
Matthew grew up in the great state of Oklahoma, although he has also spent significant periods of his life in California and Oregon. During his youth he played the drums and spent countless hours with his friends creating cacophonous noise in his basement. His parents were good sports and didn’t complain much.
Matt attended Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, where he chose a major in Russian language and literature. During his university years he purchased an old banjo on a whim and began strumming it in his free time. After he graduated he moved to Russia where he lived for the last two years, teaching English and American culture as a participant of the Fulbright Program. Today he lives in San Francisco where he teaches English, plays music, reads Russian novels, and plays basketball.
Jordan SternSan Fransisco, CA
Jordan lives in San Francisco where he was born. He has been teaching himself how to play music since he was 13 when he first started playing guitar. Since then he has had fun playing banjo, percussion, and bass. His most recent musical project is a nine person band called Adventure Club, where audience members participate in live performances by playing homemade instruments that Jordan and his friends make.
Jordan has worked in several educational settings as a camp counselor, teacher, and mentor to youth ages 5-19. Currently he runs a youth program at the Bike Kitchen, a non profit that collects old bikes and teaches people how to build their own bike. He also works as a mental health and substance abuse counselor.
Jordan enjoys going on bike adventures with his friends, eating lots of curry, and playing soccer.
Erin JohnsonBerklee, CA
Erin Johnson is currently a graduate student in the Department of Art Practice at University of California, Berkeley (UCB). She hails from the Southeast and attended college in Asheville, North Carolina at Warren Wilson College, a major hub of Appalachian folk music. While at Warren Wilson she completed her self-designed degree in Art and Community Organizing, specializing the traditional craft of printmaking, papermaking, and bookbinding. She has taught art, art history, and theory in many different settings from community art centers, homeless shelters, K-8 public schools, as well at her alma mater and UCB.
Gillian is an award-winning harpist/singer-songwriter whose music has been featured in film & on radio. She was born in Philadelphia, where she began singing in children’s choirs and later spent several years studying opera. She started taking harp lessons when she was twelve – by fourteen she was making her debut at the Edinburgh International Harp Festival. Gillian began writing original songs while living abroad in Switzerland at fifteen, eventually reinventing herself as a harpist-singer-songwriter, independently releasing two albums, and touring France, Germany, India, Indonesia, China, Russia, Canada, and the United States.
She graduated from Bryn Mawr College with a degree in Comparative Literature and was awarded a 2009-2010 Thomas J. Watson Fellowship which funded her for twelve months of travel with her harp, studying and participating in emerging music scenes throughout Europe and Asia. She has given workshops for the American Harp Society, spoken at school assemblies about her experiences as an independent artist, and participated in the ESL Folk Project: Russia adventure with the Ramblers in 2010. She is excited to be making her first trip to South America! You can listen to her music online at www.gilliangrassie.com