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Cultural Intersections in Music Therapy: Music, Health, and the Person


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"Where are you from?" It was a phrase I must have heard thousands of times as a young girl growing up in southern Illinois. I scrunched my toes inside my tennis shoes, drawing circles in the dirt with my feet, "India," I said, anticipating the next string of questions, the quizzical looks and hesitations that inevitably followed. "What tribe are you from ?" "Were you born here?" "Have you ever gone back?" "Don't you read the Bible?" Born in South India and immigrating with my family to the United States at six months of age, I grew up as a second generation Indian-American in a middle-class, Hindu family. Because I was raised in a small, conservative, Midwestern, university town, it took me a long time, however, to fully embrace my Indian heritage, facing microaggressions on a regular basis, feeling excluded, and being one of only a few children of color in my school. I played European classical music and American folk songs on the violin, wore jeans and t-shirts, and spoke with an American accent. I refused to speak Tamil, my family's native language, or learn Karnatic music, an elaborate. South Indian classical genre. Raised as a Brahmin, a member of the most privileged caste in India, I was imprinted with values of art, music, education, and spirituality. However, while I drove with my family to Hindu temples hours away for religious rituals, I understood little about the social and cultural complexities of my native country.

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