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Alumni develop first-of-its-kind ESL program in Russia

August 12, 2010

  • This summer, Matt Nelson B.A. ’08 and Jordan Stern B.A. ’08 taught Russian children about American culture and language through folk music. (Photo courtesy of

Matt Nelson B.A. ’08 and Jordan Stern B.A. ’08 created a unique educational program for Russian schoolchildren this summer. Together with two other musician-teachers, Nelson and Stern spent the month of June touring Russia, performing folk music and teaching children about American culture and language.

The project, titled “Ramblin’ Across Russia: Accessing Culture and Language Through American Folk Music,” was co-sponsored by the Fulbright Program and the English Language Office of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

Nelson, who spent the past two years as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in the Russian cities of Novosibirsk and Vladivostok, conceived of the idea last fall.

“Traditional American folk music embodies an aspect of American culture which young Russians aren’t normally exposed to,” Nelson said. “So much of what these kids know about our country comes from Hollywood films and MTV, and what we wanted to do was offer them a different perspective.”

Nelson and Stern were joined on the tour by two other musician-teachers, Brendan Mulvihill, another Fulbright ETA in Russia, and Gillian Grassie, who was traveling through Asia on a fellowship to study emerging music. After months of planning and curriculum development, The Ramblers set off on their five-city tour in June.

The group documented their experiences on their website, where they posted educational materials and lesson plans. They created the following video to pull together audio and images of their performances in Russia.

Read more about the group’s experiences in this article from

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