BOZEMAN—Montana State University graduate Gabe Lavin has won a Fulbright scholarship to study the culture of Oman through the lens of one of that country’s traditional musical instruments.
"I am exploring different cultures through the art of music," said Lavin, who graduated from MSU in 2013 with a degree in anthropology, and who has discovered a way to combine his passion for music with his interest in Arabic culture.
For the next year the Bozeman native will study the Arabic culture through the oud, a pear-shaped string instrument similar to a guitar, in Muscat, the capital of Oman. The country is located on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula.
"This is an incredible research opportunity for Gabe," said Laurence Carucci, MSU professor of anthropology, and Lavin's former academic adviser. "As an anthropologist this is exactly what he needs to do—hang out with the same people for an extended time, explore local practices and further develop a cultural understanding of that part of the world."
Lavin will study extensively with other musicians in Oman and in the process gain a better appreciation of Arabic viewpoints and beliefs as well as experience daily life in Oman.
"The anthropology department reaches out to other cultures in Montana and around the globe, including the Marshall Islands and the Arab world. We are very proud of Gabe," said Carucci, who recently returned from the Marshall Islands where he is conducting research. "He is excellent at reaching out and exploring other cultures and has done an amazing job finding ways to fund his research."
Lavin said he started playing the oud in Morocco in 2010 and developed his skills while studying in Egypt on a Boren scholarship at an oud conservatory with Naseer Shama, a famous Iraqi oud player, in 2012. Through musical encounters Lavin said he has gained a better understanding of the vast cultural diversity in Northern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
Over the past two years, Lavin has traveled extensively playing with oud groups in a consortium of countries and cultures, including Khartoum in the Sudan.
"Gabe's ability to gain international experiences has helped him capture the essence of anthropology, and more specifically, ethnomusicology," Carucci said. "As a top-tier research institute, MSU needs to continue exploring other cultures, and this is an excellent way for Gabe to contribute to that global body of research."
"Oman is in the midst of a musical renaissance," Lavin said of the country bordered by Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. "I want to help bring different cultures together through music, and Oman is the ideal place to do it."
According to Carucci, Gabe has a tremendous advantage in studying an Arabic culture because of his sophistication and his relatively strong Arabic language skills. Lavin studied Arabic through MSU's Arab language program prior to studying in Morocco and Egypt.
The Fulbright student program is an international program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase international understanding between people.
Contact: Sally O’Neill, (406) 994-7688, firstname.lastname@example.org