Early this past summer, members of the Bhutanese Nepali New American community formed a folk dance and music group for young people in Burlington’s Old North End neighborhood. The leaders of the group - Ishwari, Bidur, and Bishnu - began offering rehearsals three times a week to provide a safe place for Bhutanese Nepali youth to meet, learn about their cultural heritage, and ultimately share it with the broader community. In Bidur’s words, “We want to be part of the community, spread our culture, and preserve it. But it’s not just about our community—we want everyone to know we are here."
The group meets three times a week for two hours, with over 20 young people participating each time. Kathleen, the Vermont Folklife Center’s Director of Education and ethnomusicologist, was introduced to the leaders of the dance group in late July, back when they were meeting in a small classroom in the old St. Joseph’s School.
Since then, Kathleen has been involved with the group on a variety of levels. She assisted the group in applying for two grants through the VFC’s Vermont Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. These two grants will enable the group to compensate their instructors as well as purchase instruments such as tabla, sarangi, harmonium, and guitars.
Kathleen has also been documenting the group's public performances, interviewing members of the community, and working with Mark Sustic, of Young Tradition Vermont, to secure a new rehearsal space that can accommodate their growing numbers. She plans to write about the group’s efforts in her dissertation, which focuses on the experiences of New American musicians in Vermont.
The Vermont Nepali Cultural Heritage Group has also been supported by many other individuals in the community, local nonprofits, and educational institutions including the Vermont Hindu Temple, and Association of Africans Living in Vermont, and Integrated Arts Academy. Thank you to all.