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The Context of Our Work

By Patricia Olson, Interim Associate Dean

I often listen to a podcast called "On Being" with host Krista Tippett. Recently she spoke with renowned cellist and songwriter Yo-Yo Ma about a concept I think is important in Extension.

Yo-Yo Ma shared how he sees each concert hall as a "separate instrument" in his ensemble, along with the orchestras and artists he accompanies. Each concert hall or other venue has its separate, unique qualities. Some halls are "dry" and work well with the spoken voice. Some, like Minneapolis' Orchestra Hall, reverberate to make the sounds blend. He emphasized that an artist must know the characteristics of this "additional instrument" in order to make the music meaningful to listeners.

I think there's a lesson here for Extension educators.

Just as Yo-Yo Ma must know the context of his work, we also must know our communities and audiences — the context of our work — in order to make our education truly meaningful to our participants. Listen to the "On Being" podcast with Yo-Yo Ma.
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