The first (and last) time I saw Sensemaya was when they played Riverfront Park in Troy back in 2005. Mind you, I haven’t “stayed away” from the band; as I recall, I enjoyed their performance very much. It’s just that the band and I haven’t crossed paths since then. That’ll change on Friday night at A Place For Jazz, when I attend the CD-release party for the group’s new disc “Havana Before Dawn.”
Pianist Dave Gleason is the band’s leader, as well as someone who’s actually living his education: He studied the folk and popular music forms of Puerto Rico and Cuba while working on his M.A. in Music at Tufts University. He also studied ethnomusicology and composition while playing gigs and jam sessions around the Boston area. So when he was gracious enough to give me a few minutes as he prepared for the drop party, I knew what question I’d ask him first:
Q: What the heck is an “ethnomusicologist,” and when did you know you wanted to become one?
A: It just means someone who studies world music. You could also say it’s a anthropologist who focuses on the relationship between music and culture. An ethnomusicologist does field work and participant observation. They live in the culture they study and learn their music by playing it. Many ethnomusicologists focus on Africa, India, China, etc., but my focus was Cuba and Puerto Rico. I knew I wanted to study ethnomusicology on about the second day of my freshman year at the Crane School of Music. We read about it in an Intro to Music Studies class. I remember calling my parents that afternoon and telling them that I knew this was going to part of my future. Dr. Marsha Baxter at Crane is an ethnomusicologist, and she helped me get my start; later I pursued it in graduate school.