Indiana State University Newsroom

ISU students teach music in Thailand

September 23, 2011

Eager to meet their host family, Jordan Black and Nathan Rainey stepped into a home in the village of Kosumpisai, Thailand.

"When we arrived, the first thing they asked us to do was to call them mom and dad," said Black. "They were like, ‘You're our sons now; you're part of our family from now on.'"

The inviting welcome was just a hint of the gracious Thai culture the two Indiana State seniors would experience during the next seven weeks.

"When you go over there, it's waves of graciousness and politeness all the time. They will do anything to make you comfortable," said Black, a student from Freelandville, Ind.

Black and Rainey, both music education majors, travelled to Thailand this summer to teach band at the Kosumwittayasan School, a secondary school in the eastern region of Thailand.

The students heard about the opportunity to teach abroad through Brian Kilp, a professor of music at Indiana State University. Kilp has been travelling to Thailand for over 11 years and has visited the Kosumwittayasan School on several occasions.

"When we were in Thailand last January, a teacher at the Kosumwittayasan School asked if it would be possible to have some student ‘experts' to come teach for an extended period," said Kilp. "I immediately began recruiting Jordan and Nathan, as I thought they would be a good match."

The seniors were excited to take on the challenge, which would provide them with valuable teaching experience.

"The school actually treated us like we were a teacher with a real college degree. They gave us our own office where we could work and prepare for rehearsal," said Rainey, a Petersburg, Ind. native.

The Indiana State students team taught the band course during the summer. Black also had the opportunity to arrange music for the Thai drum line.

In addition to teaching their first classes, Black and Rainey experienced life outside of the United States for the first time.

"First off, you have to throw out every preconception you have about an educational system from America, because it's nothing like that," said Black.

In Thailand, for example, band is solely an extracurricular activity. Students meet after school rather than in a class during the day. This was just one of several differences Black and Rainey encountered.

"Again, you have to throw out preconceptions," said Black. "Many American bands are what we would call field bands, where they march on a football field, but this band is primarily a parade band."

In addition to parades, the group performed the national anthem and school song at a daily school assembly. Under the instruction of Rainey and Black, Thai students had the chance to learn about a new style of music.

"One of our goals was to help them focus more on concert style music," said Black, noting it was something different for the young musicians.

The Indiana State students spoke highly of the Thai students.

"They're just so willing to learn," said Black.
Rainey agreed. "They are so, so thankful for the education that they do get," he said.

Likewise, Black and Rainey were thankful for the opportunity to teach the band class. They were able to see firsthand the value of teaching techniques they had learned in classes at ISU.

"Most education students know that talking is overrated and that you should hear the students talk more than you hear yourself talk," said Rainey. "But I don't think I really understood that until I went over there and saw how effective our teaching was, even though we weren't usually verbally telling them what to do."

The language barrier forced them to use more hands-on explanations and demonstrations instead of spoken descriptions, said Rainey. The challenge provided an added benefit to an already valuable teaching opportunity.

"This is experience teaching, which is something that many university students never get until the first day that they're teaching something," said Black. "In some cases, you're a music teacher and that's your first day."

"Now we have six weeks of teaching experience under our belt," said Black.

For that, they have the generosity of the university and the ISU Foundation to thank.

"Thanks to support from ISU President Bradley and ISU Foundation President Gene Crume, it all came together," said Kilp.

Both students also expressed gratitude for the travel grants they received, echoing the gracious attitudes of the Thai people they described.

"I am extremely thankful for the funding we received. It covered everything," said Black.

The provision provided the Indiana State students with an experience that will influence their teaching in the future.

Black and Rainey said the culture made a large impact on them as well.

"Every day, when we got to rehearsal, they would greet us. They would stand and say, ‘Good afternoon, how are you?' and they would stand as a group. And after every rehearsal, they would thank us and tell us that they would see us again tomorrow. Every day," said Rainey, impressed by the level of respect shown by the students.

"A lot of times as educators in America, we struggle with convincing students that what we're teaching is important," said Black.

"But in Thailand, they just immediately accepted whatever we said and applied it to their playing, and the results were incredible," said Black. "When they're really willing to do whatever you say, it magnifies the outcome."

Nathan Rainey conducts a band in Thailand. ISU/ Courtesy photo
Jordan Black directs the band at Kosumwittayasan School, a secondary school in the eastern region of Thailand. ISU/Courtesy photo
Thai students practice their parade marching. ISU/Courtesy photo
Thai band students rehearsing. ISU/ Courtesy photo

Contact: Brian Kilp, professor of music, Indiana State University, at or 812-237-2759

Writer: Bethany Donat, media relations assistant, ISU Communications and Marketing, at 812-237-3773

Story Highlights

Jordan Black and Nathan Rainey, both music education majors, travelled to Thailand this summer to teach band at the Kosumwittayasan School, a secondary school in the eastern region of Thailand.

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