Students build awareness of local refugee community

Trying to make students more aware of refugees in the local community, Anne Rasmussen continues to find ways to connect the two.

Rasmussen, professor of music and director of the Middle Eastern Music Ensemble at William & Mary, started a couple of years ago with an idea. Her latest effort will be the ensemble’s benefit concert for local refugee resettlement efforts on April 21 at the Kimball Theatre.

The event Refugees Welcome: Music for a Better World will feature the ensemble performing with guest artist Imad Al Taha, a violinist and refugee from Iraq, whom Rasmussen met years ago while conducting research in Dubai. Danis Sugiyanto, a Fulbright artist and teacher from Indonesia in residence this semester at W&M and the University of Richmond, performing with Richmond-based musicians of Raga Kusuma and Rumput will be the opener.

Rasmussen had always admired colleagues who worked with at-risk populations and organized various sessions involving her activist colleagues during her time as president of the Society for Ethnomusicology. In addition to her research abroad, she made it a goal during her 2016-17 sabbatical year to reach out to local refugee resettlement offices.

“As an ethnomusicologist, I try to bring attention to communities that might be foreign to our students and faculty,” Rasmussen said. “And particularly, since I work in the Islamicate world among Muslim populations and also in the Arab world and in diasporic communities in the U.S., I have something to offer students in both academic and music performance classes. Although there are always positive stories, this is part of the world that’s sensationalized, and people are naturally curious about it.”

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