Lucia Westin, a member of the class of 2013 at the College of the Holy Cross, expanded her already vast knowledge of music this past summer after traveling to Tunisia, the smallest country in North Africa, through the College’s Andrew W. Mellon Summer Research Program. As a research fellow, Westin joined music librarian Alan Karass on a trip to the Middle East to research the country’s history, music and culture. Her project, “Tunisian Music: A Soundtrack of a Revolution, Voice of the People” was recently recognized at the National Collegiate Research Conference at Harvard, where her presentation was one of only 10 to win an Honorable Mention out of 200 conference participants.
A French and music double major, Westin was particularly qualified to journey to Tunisia, where the official language is Arabic, but French is widely spoken. While there, she studied the relationship between music and the country’s participation in the Arab Spring, a revolutionary wave of protests, demonstrations and wars. “As music in a movie heightens emotions,” explains Westin, “so did the music of Tunisian artists.”
In Tunisia, Westin interviewed professional musicians and actors, government officials, and educators in order to come to a better understanding of the country’s politics, government, potential for social change, and popular music sensibility. “Tunisian music played a role in the revolution,” Westin continues. “The revolution, in turn, impacted the musical scene.”
Alan Karass, the music librarian at the College, has been traveling to Tunis, Tunisia’s capital, since the summer of 2006. In 2011, he began to bring students from Holy Cross with him because of the many possibilities for music-related research. Reflecting on Westin’s work, he says, “Musicians often complimented her on her thoughtfulness, her interview style, and thorough understanding of the topic.”
Westin has applied to return to Tunisia this summer in order to study the challenges Tunisian musicians face in the dissemination of their art. A native of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, she also plans to go to law school in the country next year.
The Andrew W. Mellon Summer Research Program at the College funds student-faculty research projects in the humanities and social sciences.