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Abigail McNamara ’10

Music Education
West Lebanon
Grafton County, N.H.

Abigail McNamara

Abigail McNamara came to UNH to study music and in the process she discovered what it means to be engaged with the world.

To gain admittance to the music program, McNamara auditioned for Professor Kendall Betts, a renowned French horn player. “He’s been in several famous orchestras and traveled around the world,” notes McNamara. “Most of the students in our studio came here because of Kendall. I auditioned at one other school, but the atmosphere didn’t feel right the way UNH did. Here I was able to get right to work and create a new home for myself.”

McNamara’s intention was to graduate and become a high school band director. That was before she learned about Uganda through a friend who works for ChildVoice International, a nongovernmental organization located in Durham that works in Uganda to “restore voices of children silenced by war.”

In 2008, McNamara raised funds so she could travel with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship’s Global Project. She spent a total of five weeks in Uganda with a group of 20 students from around New England. They worked with an organization, “Come Let’s Dance,” that serves victims of AIDS and their families. Then, they joined a group of Ugandan students and traveled to the war-torn northern part of the country.

While in the north, the students stayed at, and worked within the ChildVoice center. It was opened in 2006 to serve young girls and women who had been abducted when they were very young to be soldiers in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Though the rebellion is now under control, there are thousands of former LRA soldiers, all severely traumatized, in need of rehabilitation and vocational skills.

“When I returned home, I realized that I wanted to try and find a way to combine my passions—music and my wish to serve this population,” says McNamara. With help from Professor Andrew Boysen, Jr. and the staff at the Hamel Undergraduate Research Center, she wrote and was awarded a grant. Last summer, McNamara returned to Uganda.

“When I returned, I met with some of the girls from that first class,” says McNamara “They’ve gone way beyond anyone’s expectations. They’ve started their own businesses and their children are in school. They are succeeding in their own communities.”

Working with a licensed Ugandan therapist, McNamara began a weekly drum circle. Here are some quotes from McNamara’s students:

“ Music brings us together and helps us to think as a group. When I came here I was so fearful, but now those fears are gone.”

“Music consoles me. Sometimes when I am angry, I will sing and automatically I feel happy . . . The emotions I had, music has helped to do away with them.”

“I love singing and dancing. It just makes me feel so happy. I will be using music for the rest of my life.”

After graduation, McNamara hopes to continue her work at the ChildVoice center in Uganda. She’s also looking into graduate programs in music therapy.