Charlotte Heth: There Are Too Many Words, Not Enough Music

Charlotte Heth will lecture on ethnomusicology at CU Boulder on Wednesday, February 28.
Charlotte Heth will lecture on ethnomusicology at CU Boulder on Wednesday, February 28. Courtesy of Charlotte Heth

“It’s always timely to learn and deepen our respect for varying values and cultural traditions,” says Native American ethnomusicologist Charlotte Heth in a press release. “Perhaps especially true today, it takes courage to be tolerant, and to avoid making judgments about society — or about aspects of our society.”

With this perspective in mind, Heth, professor emerita at the University of California, Los Angeles, will be giving a lecture dubbed “Too Many Words — Not Enough Music,” in Grusin Hall at the University of Colorado Boulder College of Music.

The talk, investigating music and dance in Native American lives, will inaugurate a new annual lecture series called the Distinguished Lectureship on Music, Diversity and Inclusion.

Jessie Bauters, the associate director of communications at the College of Music, is excited for what Heth will bring.

“Professor Heth's work has focused on enlightening audiences about the connections that exist among different distinct cultures, especially as those connections have played out in music,” says Bauters. “Her perspective as a citizen of the Cherokee Nation can help to open eyes during a time of discord among different groups of people.”

The impetus for this new lecture series came from the music school's recent ten-year strategic planning process. The faculty, staff, and alumni committed to a greater focus on inclusion.

“Music is for everyone,” says Bauters. “By having conversations like these about something as universal as music, the door to more difficult conversations on other subjects could be opened up down the road.”

Besides this initiative, the CU Boulder College of Music also collaborates with the I Have a Dream Foundation to give piano lessons to disadvantaged kids in Boulder County.

Bauters hopes to see both students and music lovers from the community at Heth’s lecture. “We hope to broaden audience members' perspectives on music, to help them consider how different cultures viewed and employed music to communicate, and to engage with them in conversations about how this universal language can bring us together.”

Vitally, Professor Heth will expound upon her firm belief in the power of music.

“It’s all about bringing people together,” says Heth. “Beyond words and political statements and actions, making music together — whether you’re in a church choir or a marching band — does that. And when people come together and get to know other people from other cultures, we move past differences in culture and language toward greater understanding and respect.”

“Too Many Words — Not Enough Music,” by Charlotte Heth, 4 p.m. Wednesday, February 28, Grusin Music Hall, University of Colorado Boulder, free.
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Sage Marshall is a freelance writer and editor covering outdoor recreation, environmental issues, Denver's music scene, the arts, and other Colorado stories. You can check out more of his work and connect with him here.
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