NYU Wordpress Theme

NYU Prague Hosts Conference on Fake News

Journalists, scholars, activists, politicians, librarians, students all came together from November 2-4 to debate how to combat fake news at the conference Media in the Post-Truth World: The New Marketplace of (Dis)information.

Speakers from sixteen countries – many from post-Communist countries seeing the rise of right-wing extremism in government– brought their different takes on how fake news is playing out in their countries.  The conference was organized as part of the Prague Media Point, an annual event dedicated to discussing the changing media.

Discussion topics included the role of traditional media and the spread of fake news. On this subject, Ute Schaeffer from the Deutsche Welle Academy said: “As journalists we have to stop finding excuses why not to react in the face of fake news! We have to offer inspirational stories to the public.”    Maranke Wieringa from Utrecht University added that it is often politicians themselves who spread false information to legitimize their policies: “The problem isn’t that politicians don’t read traditional news, but that they ignore it.”

Russia expert Mark Galeotti and leading sinologist Martin Hála discussed the spread of state propaganda.   Martin Hála argued that while Russians may attempt to delegitimize the Western narrative, they lack a competitive strategy or ideology. Chinese propaganda, on the other hand, is both better-funded and more strategic, offering a well-thought-out Chinese alternative to the ‘decaying’ Western model.

What are some ways journalists can try to regain credibility in the current climate and untangle the web of misinformation?  The conference focused on practical solutions, not only scholarly discussion, featuring presentations of successful projects that focus on enhancing media literacy and validating facts. IREX introduced a project that has sought to increase media literacy in Ukraine. “It does not matter what information we receive, but how we receive it,” said project director Mehri Karyadgyyeva. Matus Kostolny from Dennik N, a successful independent, readership-funded Slovak online newspaper,declared: “Should journalists become activists? Yes, if we are defending democracy!” “The conference took us out of our academic bubbles,” said NYU Prague Assistant Director for Academic Affairs Vanda Thorne.

Aurora Wallace, Director of Undergraduate Studies at NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, spoke about fake news in a historical context, noting its origins with the HG Wells 1938 radio show War of the Worlds. Sarphan Uzunoglu from Kadir Has Universitesi in Istanbul noted that ‘Post-truth’ is nothing new, lying is a part of politics; in polarized communities it is a great industry.”

The masterminds of the conference are Jakub Klepal from Keynote and Jeremy Druker, NYU Prague faculty member and founder of Transitions, an NGO established to strengthen the news media in post-Communist countries.  „We live in an era of relativizing the truth and informational chaos,” notes Klepal.  “ Independent, quality and investigative journalism must survive because it is one of the pillars of liberal democracy. For our future, it is essential that we do not cease to seek the truth, even though we are often lost in misinformation and fake news; otherwise, we will end up in chaos and passivity.

The conference was organized by Transitions and Keynote, with the support of NYU Prague, the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Prague, the Representation of the European Commission in the Czech Republic, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Prague, Open Society Fund Prague and the Institute of Communication Studies and Journalism at Charles University.  

Interning at the Forum 2000 Conference: NYU Prague Students Reflect

Every year, NYU students intern at the Forum 2000 conference – an international event started by former Czech President Vaclav Havel and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel to promote human rights and democracy.  Below you can read the reflections of three students whose job was to write summaries of the panels for the Forum 2000 website and social media.  Spending three days in Prague’s sumptuous Zofin Palace, the students rubbed elbows with world leaders, famous journalists and human rights activists as they discussed the conference theme, “Is Democracy Too Old for Young People?”  

Kevin Hanley (Politics major,Liberal Studies)

Flanked by six guards, Albert the II, Prince of Monaco, entered the lecture hall followed by a round of applause. He spoke of climate change and the impending danger we face. He spoke of non action as the greatest risk to our survival. His speech was short and to the point, unlike the rest of the conference.

The panels that consumed the conference were long and thought provoking, calling upon audience members to ask questions often. At the panel sharing the namesake of the conference, “Is Democracy Too Old for Young People?” dignitaries and millennials alike spoke about the political and philosophical implications of youth shifting away from democracy. Esteemed political philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo had a very worthwhile quote when the discussion shifted to democracy and capitalism: “Democracy is about emancipation of human beings, and capitalism is about domination of human beings.” Mete Coban, a Labour Councillor for Stoke Newington and founder of My Life My Say, provided a first hand view of the recent Brexit vote and how to remedy the youth’s dissatisfaction for politics in the UK. The youth of the UK actually became very invested in the Brexit vote, but without knowing much about the implications of leaving the EU. Education, Coban said, is at the crux of the current apathy towards democracy spreading across the EU.

One of the most interesting discussions came in a panel about protecting democratic norms and institutions. In light of Russian meddling in US and EU elections, the question arises: how do we protect our institutions in a technologically advanced world? Ken Wollack, President of the National Democratic Institute, made the important distinction that Russian propaganda now is very different than that of the Cold War. Rather than try and pull people into Russia, Putin is trying to peg everyone on the world stage down to Russia’s level. The three major takeaways from this panel were 1) that democracy is in danger, even more today than thirty years ago 2) the western world is still strong enough to defend its values 3) institutions are crucial to holding democracy together.

Throughout the conference, my views about democracy and the world were called into question and reaffirmed almost simultaneously. From speaking to different panel participants and audience members, I got a sense that everyone took different things away from the conference depending on their notions about democracy going into the conference. Nevertheless, I came out just as optimistic as I went in, and that’s all I can really ask for.

Alejandra Torres (Gallatin)

When I first heard about Forum 2000, I registered online. It sounded like such an amazing opportunity to listen to and be inspired by the ideas and projects of brilliant world leaders. It was a shame that I had not heard about it on the NYC campus.

. An internship at Forum 2000 was simple: my presence at certain panels would be mandatory as I was to write reports on them. These reports would later be circulated on social media, online news sites, etc. to summarize this year’s success and promote future conferences. It was up to me to be a good listener and note-taker, and a good writer. I will admit that this latter part made me nervous. What if I was not as attentive as I should have been and did not properly transcribe or articulate what was expressed by the former president of a country?

Thus, while I was deciding which internship to accept, I exchanged several emails with Sera, trying to make the most informed decision. I also wanted an internship to extend beyond the conference. I absolutely love the fact that NYU Prague offers non-credit internships because I was hoping to be able to have an opportunity to continue gaining work experience during my time abroad. More importantly, I was searching for ways I could be more involved in Prague, learn more about Czech culture and interact with people outside of NYU. When Sera assured me that she would send me examples of past reports and that I could go into the office on Tuesdays (my day off) post-conference to work on assorted tasks, I was sold.

Writing this exactly a week after the initiation of the conference, I am so happy and blessed to have been offered this internship. I was impressed by several factors that frankly, far exceeded my expectations. The Forum 2000 Foundation was able to book gorgeous venues for the conference, it secured a plethora of incredible panelists who have been doing amazing things in their respective nations as well as in the global community, and it is so well established on the international arena. Walking into the opening panel, I felt like I was part of something big. The excitement and desire of the speakers and audience members to be agents of change was as palpable as my nervous, shaking legs.

I attended the opening panel, “Changing the International Order and the Future of Our Planet,” “Central Europe: 20 Years From Now,” “Austria and Europe;” “Religion and the Crisis of Democracy,” and “To End a War: The Colombian Peace Process.” Admittedly, there were times during these panels when I was so enthralled by the elegance, eloquence and intelligence of the speakers as they debated how to strengthen democracy in uncertain times, that I would forget that I was more than just an audience member seeking to be inspired. I had a job to do so, of course, I would quickly recover! There were many times when I agreed with what the panelists said that I would find myself silently snapping my fingers in between note-taking. At other times, the interdisciplinary approaches offered by the speakers challenged my own view points. Certainly, I left the conference with the sense that my world perspective expanded and became more enriched because some panelists pushed me to think more critically and look beyond the surface of global issues.

Prince Albert II of Monaco taught me that knowledge and awareness are critical tools to solving any type of problems; Iveta Radičová, the former Prime Minister of Slovakia, taught me that tolerance, trust and solidarity are crucial elements of liberal democracy that must be reawakened in order to improve the current political climate. Heinz Fischer, the former president of Austria, instilled in me the importance of international unity, cooperation and solidarity to address global crises.

The rush of submitting reports before the deadlines was exhilarating and empowering. In what may appear to be a childish reaction, I felt like a real adult because I have never had such fast-approaching deadlines. It was definitely good preparation for my future career. My work felt important because my supervisors relied on me to comprehend a panel that they were unable to attend. In finding the time to write my reports right after the panels concluded, I was able to also better understand in what I had participated. I was better able to clarify my own thoughts. In short, writing the reports was not only my job but it was a form of academic and personal reflection.

As I wait for my reports to be reviewed and edited, I am excited to see them once they are published. It will be a testament to my presence and experience at an amazing conference which, a week later, still seems so surreal; it will be a testament to my work and appreciation of the opportunity presented to me. I am also happy to continue working with the Forum 2000 Foundation because I will be focusing on a proposal to engage the NYU campus in New York in next year’s conference.

Ashley Jia (Stern)

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I applied to Forum 2000, but I did know that I wanted to be more involved in politics. I’m no political science major, but as Jon Gnarr, former mayor of Reykjavik said, “maybe people who are not into politics should go into politics.” Sometimes that doesn’t work out so well, but I thought I’d give it a try.

The Forum 2000 Foundation provides a platform for global leaders and thinkers from around the world to discuss and debate critical issues surrounding democracy and the development of civil society. This year’s conference centered around “Strengthening Democracy in Uncertain Times,” and naturally, my reports examined current populist crises in Europe. I listened to MPs, professors, mayors, editors, political scientists—you name it—discuss and analyze just about everything when it comes to the rise of demagogues, whether that be institutional failure in Poland and Hungary or globalization in western countries.               

Though all the panels offered compelling discussion, my most interesting experience was reporting on a working breakfast at the French Embassy. The room was lavish, the breakfast was lavish, the people appeared important—forget about being a finance major amongst all the other political science major interns; now I really felt out of place. I did not think too much of it at first, but as I was rapidly typing away and shoving croissants down my throat (shout out to Forum 2000 for the incredible pastries), I suddenly hear a man seated a few spaces away from me be addressed as “His Excellency.” No wonder the pastries were so good. If they’re good enough for that guy, they’re good enough for me.

In all seriousness though, this experience has been incredibly rewarding. Having reported on this conference and listened to numerous panelists, I think that it is imperative for young people to become more active in their local communities and to be more understanding of conflicting viewpoints. With so much polarity in society today, positive change cannot materialize without action and a little compromise.

Photo by Ashley Jia

NYU Prague Co-hosts a Conference about the Roma Genocide

NYU Prague recently co-hosted a conference that brought together scholars and survivors of the Roma genocide.  As a lead-up to the conference, NYU Prague students met with two of the participating scholars – Tara Zahra (University of Chicago) and Jan Grill (Universidad del Valle, Cali) – who talked about the challenges of doing research about a minority group whose history has been mainly documented by the majority population.  Moderated by NYU Prague professor Katerina Capkova – also a co-organizer of the conference – the students learned about the discrimination and tragedies this minority has suffered throughout so many regimes: the Hapsburg Empire, the Nazis, the Communists …. .  In the following days, students could attend the conference and hear stories first-hand from genocide survivors and their family members.    Below is an article about the conference written by NYU Prague Resident Adviser Clare Profous who is also an intern at Romea, www.romea.cz – a website dedicated to publishing articles that promote human rights by giving a voice to the Roma minority.  You can find the original article here.
Roma and Sinti Genocide Survivors, Descendants and Scholars Unite in Prague
By Clare Profous. September 20 – 21, 2017
In what way have memories of the Roma genocide affected survivors and their descendants? How have these experiences continued to influence Roma and their treatment within Europe since 1945? These were some of the questions discussed this past week at the two-day conference Tracing the Legacies of the Roma Genocide: Families as Transmitters of Experience and Memory. The conference brought together two international academic initiatives, the research network “Legacies of the Roma Genocide in Europe since 1945”, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in the UK and the Prague Forum for Romani Histories.
Roma throughout Europe were subject to violence and persecution by Nazi Germany and its allies in the 12 years leading up to 1945. It is estimated that at least 200,000 Roma were murdered, although some argue that the number may have been much higher.  Among other forms of persecution, Roma and Sinti were forced to personally experience or witness friends and relatives become victims of mass killings, were forced into gas chambers and killed there, were sent on death marches or were subjected to other forms of violence during and after the war – including sexual violence and mass sterilization.
Helena Sadílková, Ph.D, the Head of the Seminar of Romani Studies at Charles University and one of the main organizers of the event, explained what this new endeavor is about: “The Prague Forum for Romani Histories was established not only to foster a debate among scholars from different fields that focus on the history of the Roma and thus to support historical scholarship in Romani studies, but also to help to integrate such research into the wider field of European history – not as a separate/parallel minority history, but as an integral part of European history and an important lens that can deepen our understanding of the historical processes that have shaped the history of European societies”.
Speakers were invited from across the globe to reach this goal of fostering transnational discourse, including Professor Tara Zahra of Chicago University and Ari Joskowicz, an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University.  Scholars described their research in different regions of Europe including former Czechoslovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, France, Belarus and Lithuania. Their work focused on the effects and coping mechanisms related to trauma, the transmission of memory within families as well as private and public forms of commemoration, and institutional practices regarding the treatment of Roma in post-war Europe.
The purpose of the conference was twofold. Not only did it allow scholars to share ideas, but it also promoted close collaboration and the co-production of knowledge between academics and members of diverse Romani communities. Researchers were joined by Roma and Sinti survivors and their descendants, who spoke of their experiences as victims of persecution and how that past continues to fuel present-day discrimination. They also spoke of the challenges they face as they work towards coming to terms with the tragedies affecting them and their families. This discussion marked the opening of the exhibition by Eve Rosenhaft and Jana Müller titled: “…don’t forget the photos, it’s very important…” The Nationalist Socialist Persecution of Central German Sinti and Roma at the Václav Havel Library in Prague.
“The research of the history of the Roma suffers from fragmentation and remains … on the margins of the field of history as an academic discipline in general. We, however, believe that the research in the history of Roma has a
great potential in contributing to the existing historic and historiographic debates on the processes and developments in Europe since the 19th century in terms of, i.e., (dis)continuities of certain social and institutional practices as well as the questions of periodization, production of knowledge, or methodological as well as ethical concerns, etc.” says Sadílková.
For the program and complete list of speakers, organizers, and sponsors go to: http://www.romanihistories.usd.cas.cz/conferences/?y=2017
Organizers:

NYU Prague’s New Course – History in the Headlines

What if the titles of a course’s lectures were based on actual headlines?   This semester, the Prague site has done just that in our newly-launched course “History in the Headlines” and some examples of the lecture titles include:
Modern Life in an Old City: Is Prague Becoming a Disneyland? 
Donald Trump and  his  Czech Mini-me 
How will Brexit Change Central Europe?
The course meets once a week and is taught by 14 members of our faculty, each an expert on the topic they present.  Lecturers include the former Czech minister of foreign affairs,  leaders  of the Vevet Revolution and the dissident movement against Communism, an architect at Prague Castle, a film historian and a jazz musician.   Seminars are overseen by the NYU Prague Director Jiri Pehe and Assistant Director of Academics Vanda Thorne.
The original, highly-successful precursor of the class was developed in New York by Timothy Naftali in the Department of History (CAS).  In New York, the goal of the course was “to enable students to curate knowledgeably the flood of news spewing from their media 24/7.”
Eliot Bernstein from the Russian and Slavic Studies Department at CAS came up with the idea that the New York syllabus could be adapted by Prague.   According to Vanda Thorne, Assistant Director of NYU Prague, “We are following the NYU model, but additioanlly we are aware that our students have much less of a context to draw upon when they read articles about Czech or European news.  They didn’t grow up here, they might not know the history of the region.  We try to give them the historical and cultural context so they will can better understand whether the media is reflecting and interpreting things accurately.”
Students read and discuss academic articles in addition to the articles that the headlines come from.  Does the article reflect reality?  How do media report on hot topics – and how could they affect the opinions of the reader?
The 2-credit class is open to students of all majors and is designed to increase NYU’s affordibility as well as help students have a deeper understanding of the country and region in which they are studying.   Students who haven’t signed up for the class are welcome to audit.
This is a hot topic in the era of fake news.  Other NYU global sites are considering their own versions of this project, which would create space for interesting inter-cultural analyses and discussions – not to mention more interesting headlines.

NYU Prague Hosts Andrew Schapiro, U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic 2014-2017

It all started with a box of letters.

When Andrew Schapiro’s family cleared out his grandmother‘s attic after she died in 1990, they came upon the correspondence between his grandparents and relatives left behind in Prague during WWII. The letters tell the story of the Nazi occupation, written by Czech Jews confronted by increasing racism and ever-changing rules as they desperately tried to escape.

“The letters must have been too painful for my grandmother,” Andrew Schapiro told his audience when he came to NYU Prague to share stories and photos. His family published the correspondence in 1992 in a book entitled Letters from Prague 1939-1941. When Mr. Schapiro became the US Ambassador to Prague in 2014, interest in a Czech edition emerged. The letters were recently published in Czech and were edited by NYU Prague professor Katerina Capkova.

The correspondence begins in 1939, when Mr. Schapiro’s grandparents got three exit visas to the USA – for a family of five.  This left them with a heart-wrenching decision: whom to leave behind?  Two of their three children (including Andrew’s mother, aged 5) stayed in Prague in the care of their grandmother (Paula) and their Uncle Erwin. The first half of the book is about the complications in getting the girls visas so they could join their family in St. Louis. Finally, shortly after Germany Poland and the war began, the girls left for the USA.

“That would have been the happy end,” said Mr. Schapiro. “if it weren’t for the family left behind.” The second half of the book is an increasingly desperate first-hand account of  assimilated Czech Jews trapped. “Uncle Erwin was a successful doctor – one of the leading gastronetrologists in Europe.  It makes me sad that people who might have been able to help didn’t stick their necks out.” The last letter in the book is from 1942 – a postcard sent by his great-grandmother to her sister:

I must tell you that on Monday I [depart – crossed out] am boarding [the train] .  God bless us all, farewell.  Your Paula.  

Neither Paula nor Uncle Erwin survived.

As Ambassador in Prague, Andrew Schapiro lived only a few blocks away from where his mother had lived as a child, and when he moved to Prague, suddenly so many of the references in the letters came to life. His office in the Embassy also evoked memories. It was there that visas for his mother and aunt had been issued. But it was also there that Uncle Erwin’s request for a visa was delayed. One of the very few documents to survive the war was a letter from the US Embassy from 1939 saying it would take several years for them to process his request for a visa. “I had mixed feelings as the US Ambassador. I represented a country that had saved our lives but had also shut out so many people.”

Mr. Schapiro remarked on some of the parallels that refugees trying to escape war are confronting today. He reminded students of the inscription on the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

 

This post comes to us from Leah Gaffen of NYU Prague.

 

 

 

NYU Prague’s Latest PragueCast Explores Youth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The latest edition of PragueCast, a podcast with stories of Prague told through the eyes of NYU Prague students coordinated by BBC correspondent Rob Cameron. With Cameron’s guidance, the students produce 20-minute editions, each with a different theme chosen by students, and distribute it to a wide audience. Students write, record, produce, edit, and market the episodes – all as a non-credit internship. Read more about the origins of the program in an earlier Global Dimensions conversation with Cameron and participating students here. The program has now been running for three years. Themes covered have included topics as divers as dreams. refuge, searching, thirst, and the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. The latest edition is focused on Youth.

Youth – wasted on the young, as George Bernard Shaw famously said? Or is that unkind? What are the dreams and aspirations of Czech kids today? Why do so many Czech women (and men) pursue the elusive goal of youthful looks? And what do the elderly think of the young people of today? Tune in to find out! Listen here.

Patrick Virgie speaks to the not-so-young about the youth of today.

So, what are the dreams and aspirations of Czech kids today? According to Patrick Virgie, an NYU Prague student and PragueCast member who spent time with elderly Czechs to find out what they think of young people today, “No matter the cultural, political or age difference, at the end of the day, … we all just want to come together, tell a good story, and share a good laugh.”

Working with Cameron, the PragueCast team visited a local senior citizen’s home, a school, a plastic surgeon and interviewed people on their street about their opinions on the theme. Every semester, the PragueCast releases 2-3 episodes that explore Czech politics, society, and culture.

PragueCasters Onyeka Osih and Aine Marie Policastro hit the streets to ask Czech women for their beauty tips – how do they stay young, and for whom?

“Working with Rob is amazing, and doing the podcast has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone,” reported one member of the team this semester.  This is a fantastic opportunity for aspiring journalists, writers, or students who want to learn more about the Czech Republic in an active way.

You can download the Youth podcast here or find all of the episodes on thePragueCast site. Happy listening!

 

Former Czech Ambassadors Discuss Trump Presidency at NYU Prague

Two former Czech Ambassadors to the USA- Alexandr Vondra and Michael Zantovsky – recently spoke at NYU Prague about their views on the Trump Presidency.  They were joined by Tomas Klvana, NYU Prague professor and author of the recently published book FenomenTrump (The Trump Phenomenon).

The ambassadors focused primarily on how the new administration could affect European relations – potentially strengthening European countries’ commitment to NATO.  Tomas Klvana, who did his doctorate in the USA, spoke  from a more sociological perspective, siting his theories on why Trump was elected.  He spoke about identity politics, the rapid changes in technology, and how the ability for everyone to instantly publish their views online is affecting public opinion.
The audience – made up of students, professors and members of the public – asked about the panelists’ opinions on the personality of Trump and his affect on society.  It ended with a passionate discussion demonstrating the different perceptions of the definition of an “ordinary American” and how Trump’s term in office could continue to shape those perceptions.
This article is by Leah Gaffen of NYU Prague.

NYU Prague Students meet with Prominent Tibetan Refugee

The students with Nyima Lhamo.

In late February, NYU Prague students had the unique opportunity to meet Nyima Lhamo, the 26-year old niece of a Tibetan lama who died in a Chinese prison in 2015. Ms. Lhamo, who fled Tibet in 2016,  was in Prague on an advocacy visit to tell the story of her uncle’s death.

Her uncle was Trulku Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a Tibetan activist and community leader who promoted Tibetan culture and was often critical of Chinese policies. In 2002, he was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of terrorism and inciting separatism in the Sichuan Province (charges which he and his supporters denied)  He died in 2015 at age 65, thirteen years into his prison sentence.  Chinese media sited the cause of death as a heart attack, but no death certificate has been issued and there are many questions surrounding his death.
Ms. Lhamo escaped to India in July 2016, a year after her uncle’s death, leaving her 6-year old daughter behind.  She fled China so she could appeal to the international community to pressure China to investigate Rinpoche’s conviction and death. Before escaping, she and her mother were detained by the Chinese authorities for 18 days in Chengdu on charges for “leaking state secrets to the outside world.”
The event was organized in collaboration with the Forum 2000 Foundation, founded by the late Czech President Vaclav Havel, and the human rights organization People in Need.

By Leah Gaffen of NYU Prague

Former NYU Prague Music Student Ericsson Hatfield Continues to Create with Petra Matejova, Professor of Piano and Expert on Early Music

When Ericsson Hatfield came to NYU Prague in 2015 as a sophomore to study music, he didn’t expect that one year later, he would return to Prague to have his compositions professionally performed and recorded by his former professor.

But that is exactly where his studies in the NYU Prague music program led him.

While in Prague Ericsson (Steindhardt, 2018), a student of violin and composition, studied piano with Dr. Petra Matejova, an award-winning Czech pianist specializing in early music and fortepiano playing.  When Ericsson presented one of his compositions to her during a class, she offered to play it at the music students’ recital. 

In the USA this would never happen – professors are much more separated from their students, and you have to pay a lot of money to have a professional play a new piece,” Ericsson explained.

Their collaboration did not end with the recital and Ericsson’s return to the US. They stayed in touch by email, with Ericsson writing new pieces inspired by Petra’s specialization in early music and Petra offering technical advice.  “Ericsson specializes in a style of music – Baroque – that is rare for a 20 year old.  I have met very few people who could write fugues in this form – and he  does it very well,” she said.  

When NYU’s Tonemeisters started planning a trip to Prague for the summer of 2016 during which they would make sound recordings in different spaces in the city, Petra suggested that they use Ericsson’s compositions – resulting in the first professional recordings of Ericsson’s pieces.

“I prefer to perform brand new pieces rather than pieces that millions of people play,” explained Petra Matejova.   “So when the Tonemeisters contacted me, I thought why not record something with more of a connection to NYU?”  

When the Tonemeister’s recordings were successful, Petra and Ericsson decided they wanted to record more – enough for a first album. Thanks to a crowdfunding campaign, Ericsson could cover the costs associated with recording his new pieces in Prague, including his airfare and the studio. This past January, Petra and Ericsson rehearsed new pieces.

Their work is  a true collaboration between two artists.  “I believe music should be a communal experience between the performer and the composer – I wrote pieces so Petra could improvise and show off her skills,” explained Ericcson. “I admire greatly the sophistication of Petra’s playing and her approach to my pieces. She puts in quite a bit of time, and quite a bit of thought. She is brilliant in her interpretations and her technical executions.”

Petra also appreciates their musical partnership. “I have never had so much interaction with a composer – that is the advantage of working with talented students – perhaps I dare to have more open discussions with them.  It is a very organic process, very creative.”

When finished, the album will be posted on iTunes and submitted for consideration on streaming services. Ericsson, who is from Palm Beach, Florida has also been discussing the possibilities of holding a public concert at the local arts center to celebrate the release of the album. He hopes that if the event occurs, they could also raise enough funds to invite Petra to perform at the event. 

How did studying in Prague influence Ericsson? “Studying [in Prague] was much more calm than in NYC. I could focus on my composition, and I had time to practice, to experiment. Here friendships with teachers are genuine.  I miss my teachers the same way I miss my friends.”

“Also in Prague, audiences [at classical concerts] are more engaged – you have everyone, all incomes, all ages.  The first time I came to Prague I went to a student concert in a church. It was standing room only. In New York you have to work to get two benches full.”

Ericcson’s plans for the future?  He hopes to continue to study composition at graduate school at Juilliard or Yale. “Baroque music is experiencing a resurgence. Julliard started an early music department.  American composers are going back to Renaissance/Baroque music.”  

You can hear several of Ericsson’s pieces here: https://soundcloud.com/petramatejova

This piece was written by Leah Gaffen of NYU Prague.

How January Term is Redefining Education

This is a post from NYU Abu Dhabi. Although January Term originated with NYU Abu Dhabi, now other students in NYU’s global network, notably those from NYU Shanghai, have the opportunity to experience a January Term.

Education at NYU Abu Dhabi is not just about learning facts from textbooks and passing multiple choice exams. It’s an immersive experience for NYUAD students, who, each January Term choose hands-on classes in cities from Al Ain to Buenos Aires that challenge their perceptions of the past and enrich their visions of the future.

There are dozens of courses offered in J-Term that get students out of the classroom to learn about the world as it was before, and experience the world as it really is today, like Jazz or the Financial Crisis taught in New York City, Emirati Arabic in Al Ain, Museum History in Berlin, and these seven examples that span the globe. Note: course descriptions have been edited.

1482320620884

Oasis Coast and Mountain

Faculty: Steven C. Caton and Donald M. Scott
Course location: UAE and Oman

A course that challenges students’ perceptions of Arabian landscapes as being mainly desert by showing them three distinct habitat zones: desert oasis, maritime ports, and mountain farms all within 250 kilometers of each other across the UAE and Oman.

Students learn through observational site visits, direct encounters and interactions with local peoples and places through walking tours, interviews, photography and sketching.

Imagining the Renaissance City

Faculty: Jane Tylus
Course location: NYU Florence

Northern and central Italy’s bustling towns inspired many of today’s modern cities and also pioneered recognizably modern artistic, cultural, and engineering practices. Florence was a powerhouse of culture and industry and Siena the ‘Wall Street of Europe’ with the skyline to match.

Students spend three weeks getting to know these towns intimately. Explore downtown Florence, Siena, and the Tuscan countryside. Walk from the town of Fiesole (with its Etruscan ruins and Roman theater), to Monte Ceceri (from whose summit a student of Leonardo da Vinci’s tried to fly; good start, sad ending). Visit seats of government and Renaissance orphanages, climb towers for bird’s-eye views, prowl a crypt recently excavated under Siena’s cathedral, visit churches on hills overlooking Florence and the cells of monks, and walk the trail of the stonecutters to see where Michelangelo found his stone.

1482320599385

Coastal Urbanization

Faculty: John Burt
Course location: Sydney

Over 80 percent of the Australian population lives within 100 kilometers of a coast and virtually all major Australian cities occur on coastlines. As a result, Australia’s coastal environments have been substantially modified to suit human needs.

Using Sydney’s terrestrial, marine, and built environments as a natural laboratory for field research, students collect environmental data throughout the city and use geographic information systems (GIS) to examine the spatial patterns of human impacts to Sydney’s environment and compare their results with patterns observed in other coastal cities.

Prague

Faculty: Professor Michael Beckerman
Course location: Prague

Prague should have been destroyed during the Second World War, like other major cities in Europe, but somehow it wasn’t. Its remarkable survival allows us to explore Central European history and culture in the context of a completely preserved inner urban core dating back to the Middle Ages.

Class time includes walking tours around Prague, trips to museums, castles, theaters, classical concerts including Mozart’s Magic Flute and Janacek’s From the House of the Dead, and several excursions outside the city to the Eastern Province of Moravia, birthplace of Mahler and Freud, and to the UNESCO Heritage site of Cesky Krumlov.

Democracy and its Critics

Faculty: Philip Mitsis
Course location: Abu Dhabi / Athens

An examination of one of history’s most radical and influential democracies, ancient Athens.

Students assume historical roles in key decision-making institutions and debate questions about democratic procedures, the extension of voting rights, religion and free speech, foreign policy, etc., often in the very locations where these ancient debates occurred.

The Idea of the Portrait

Faculty: Shamoon Zamir
Course location: London

The course draws upon the rich resources of London’s museums and galleries to examine a wide range of portraits and self-portraits in painting and photography from different periods of history and from different cultures.

Students visit The National Gallery, British Museum, Tate Modern, Tate Britain, the Queen’s Collection, the Courtauld Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Victoria & Albert Museum, as well as the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Creative Cities

Faculty: Arlene Davila
Course location: Buenos Aires

Latin America has been undergoing rapid urbanization and is increasingly recognized as a continent made up of “countries of cities,” yet the dominant Latin American image has been on indigenous or traditional communities, which are always imagined as rural and authentic, rather than modern and urbanized.

Buenos Aires provides an urban laboratory to explore culture in urban development, urban tourism, and the marketing and internationalization of tango. Guided tours and guest speakers enrich students’ appreciation of contemporary Buenos Aires.

Original post by Andy Gregory, NYUAD Public Affairs, available here.