Innovating education and tourism through the power of Muse Seek

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The Muse Seek Project originally started as an initiative that breaks barriers between music and Deaf children in my home country Dominican Republic.
Muse Seek activity

Muse Seek activity

I felt I needed to know how Dominican education institutions were educating deaf children. For this reason, I started a research and enrolled at the National School for the Deaf, as a student. I became friends with students, parents and teachers, In doing so, I found out just how bad the education system is for schools for the deaf in my country.

What impacted me the most was that the majority of schools for the deaf in the Dominican Republic do not offer secondary school, grades and stopped operating after 6th or 7th grade. I realized it wasn’t about offering them a cool music program anymore, music itself had to become the language for education.

For this reason, I envisioned to create an innovative, different and fun program aimed at deaf students focused on music. A unique program that is not based on the assumption that it would serve as a music therapy but a tool that would allow children to feel the music within them and enjoy it.

It’s safe to say that the Muse Seek Project’s vision is to make a fabulous and majestic musical out of the education system for the Deaf. 

With that in mind, the Muse Seek launched “Whale Muse Seek”, an outdoor educational activity that brings live whale music to Deaf students.

The Whale Project

Through this project, students can learn about humpback whales, climate change and ocean conservation. Just imagine around 65 people (students and guests) on a boat wearing a special technology called SubPac, which transfers low frequencies directly to your body creating a physical experience of music, while humpback whales are jumping, playing and singing all around us.

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One year after carrying out this project, “Bird Muse Seek” was launched with professor Dr. Richard Prum from Yale University and traveler photographer Richard Sobol.

Professor Dr. Richard Prum

Amazing how music and technology can help improve education, makes it so sexy.

I’m always being asked what makes the Muse Seek different from other projects for the Deaf or who is our competition. I think Muse Seek is just too weird and unique to face any parallel competition.

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The reason why it’s so original is because initiatives come out everything that Dominican Republic has to offer, like our sanctuary in Samaná.

The Whale Project

Samaná is the main center for whale-watching tours in the Caribbean region, and Silver Bank is one of the few breeding and calving zones of the North Atlantic Humpback Whale. The Silver Bank and surrounds yearly play host to thousands of migrating North Atlantic Humpback Whales. In 2005, NOAA researchers aboard the R/V Gordon Gunther conducted an extensive population count in the region, and the results (encompassing a six-week period and twelve-mile circumference) indicate that between 5000-7000 humpbacks pass through this oddly shaped, forty square mile sanctuary each winter. Indeed, research indicates that the Silver Bank contains the largest seasonal population of humpbacks in the North Atlantic Ocean, if not the world.

The Dominican Republic is also home to many species of endemic birds found nowhere else in the world, and in 2016 we’ll be going deep into Dominican folkloric music.

As contradictory as it may sound, I believe that being faithful to my roots has stimulated me to continue innovating while remaining unique. By incorporating this philosophy into the Muse Seek Project, I am confident that when this project goes abroad to a new country; it will celebrate this country’s unique music style.

Education for the Deaf is categorized as “special” education still remains as the biggest challenge for Dominican Republic. I think it’s education, period. But I’ve been lucky to engage visionary people and supporters that embrace the Muse Seek Project’s mission to modify the status quo.

The Muse Seek Project has been presented as a best practice of social inclusion at the Education Lab of Columbia University, NYU, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Yale University, the Forbes Powerful Women Summit 2016, Dolphinity World Festival, MIT, Microsoft’s Live The Cloud, TEDx, the Dominican Conference for Accessible Tourism, TESLA Motors, among others.

Maria at NYU

Although it has been difficult to change people’s mind on how they perceived Deaf people’s education, I found numerous allies on my way in this fight and I am proud to say the Muse Seek Project has achieved a positive impact in Dominican Republic through the combination of music and our nation’s assets.

When I started the Muse Seek Project in 2013, I did it because I believe music can change the world, and when I say music, I mean Muse Seek.

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Sobre el Autor

Maria Batlle

Maria Batlle is the Founder and Chair of EnSeña and The Muse Seek Project. Maria is a creative director, visual artist, music producer and teaching artist exploring full music and education with the Deaf community since 2013 in order to make a meaningful change in education through the arts. Maria has been invited to present lectures at Columbia University’s Education Lab; New York University’s Music & Sound Lab; New Jersey Institute of Technology; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; the Dolphinity World Festival in Spain; Microsoft events; the International Book Fair of Santo Domingo; the Ministry of Culture of the Dominican Republic; the Santo Domingo Institute of Technology and more. 2016 will be Maria’s fourth year participating in Harvard University’s institute with Yo-Yo Ma: Arts and the Passion Driven Learnings.