It is increasingly recognized that teaching multiculturally requires more than introducing foreign content into our classrooms and the ideologies, contexts, practices and pedagogical techniques raise important challenges for teacher and student alike. The Multicultural Arts University is one response to these challenges, placing education students in a culturally contextualized setting, removing them from their musical and cultural comfort zones, thus challenging their ideological comfort zones, encouraging students to formulate their own beliefs about teaching and learning, emerging as teachers better equipped to engage in productive ways to encourage their own students to understand music and to teach in a multicultural environment, an environment which Finland is fast becoming, if it is not considered so already.

The Multicultural Arts University: Cambodia project involves masters students and researchers from the University of the Arts, Helsinki Finland, traveling to Cambodia to work with the children and staff of three music and dance programmes designed for underpriviledged children. Stepping outside of their musical comfort zones, without a shared language, social background, or musical history, both Finnish and Cambodian students and staff participate in shared workshops – exchanging their knowledge of their own arts traditions and learning new musics, dances and pedagogies – positioning each participant in the roles of both expert, and beginner.

What Cambodian participants have said:

It was very special for me. I liked when we mixed three songs together, I have never seen or heard that done before. But the sound was very interesting. In the future, if it is possible, I would like to write music like this

- 16 year old, Cambodia

I had the same feeling again as when I was a student. It is difficult to teach the Finnish students, it was a very good experience
- trainee music/dance teacher, Cambodia

Teaching pinpeat music for me is easy. What I found difficult was the language and how to communicate with the Finnish students. But you learn ways to deal with this, trying different approaches depending on the student and the situation
- trainee music teacher, Cambodia


A shared melody can be found, even without a shared language.

The best way to prepare how to teach, is to prepare to improvise.

Each moment was lived with total concentration.

Shared responsibility is a sign of trust.

The inner journey still continues after returning home.

At the beginning of this project I felt a lot of stress about how I would teach something to others. By the end of the project I felt these 'others', the children, and my student colleagues, had taught me some of the
biggest lessons of my life.




  • Alexis Kallio
  • Heidi Partti
  • Eeva-Leena Pokela
  • Inga Rikandi
  • Heidi Westerlund

Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki
Faculty of Music Education, Jazz and Folk Music/MuTri
Doctoral School

PO Box 30
FI-00097 Uniarts

Contact persons

Heidi Westerlund  heidi.westerlund(at)
Alexis Kallio  alexis.kallio(at)
Danielle Treacy  danielle.treacy(at)