Selkirk College partners with Jamaican Arts School


Submitted by: 

Bob Hall


Selkirk College’s Pat Bidart (middle left) and Melody Diachun (middle right) in Jamaica.

A new partnership between Selkirk College and the Edna Manley College of the Visual & Performing Arts in Jamaica has opened the door for students to immerse themselves in Caribbean culture and creativity.

In October, an envoy of Selkirk College educators headed south to Kingston, Jamaica to formalize an agreement between the two post-secondary institutions. With a memorandum of understanding signed, the schools are now preparing to accept students into the exchange that will begin with the Selkirk College Contemporary Music & Technology Program and then have the opportunity to expand into other areas of arts study.

“We talk a lot about worldview and globalization, but Canadian students don’t tend to go abroad as much as other nations,” says Selkirk College’s Pat Bidart, the dean responsible for programs that focus on arts education. “This is especially true at the college level. One of the issues is that you have to find the right partner that is up to speed on what your outcomes are and this partnership just happens to be a perfect match.”

Joining Bidart on the journey to Jamaica in October were School of the Arts chair Daryl Jolly and Contemporary Music & Technology Program advisor Melody Diachun. The goal was to lay the groundwork for a music program exchange that would send Selkirk College students to Jamaica and Edna Manley College students to the West Kootenay.

“Music is a huge part of their culture,” says Diachun, a former JUNO Award nominee who teaches in the music program. “The influence of artists like Bob Marley is still very prevalent at both the school and in the communities. Of course when people think of Jamaican music it’s reggae, but while I was on the visit, there were sub-genres of Jamaican music that I didn’t even know about. There is a lot to know and for our students, it would be huge in their education.”

The Selkirk College music program offers students a two-year diploma, while the Edna Manley College is a four-year degree. Canadian students who are accepted into the four-month exchange will be able to enhance their education along with the cultural experience. 

Though details are still being worked out, students on the Jamaican side of the exchange could arrive to the Tenth Street Campus in Nelson as early as September 2018. When that happens, all the students in the program will be able to participate in the excitement of the partnership. 

“The cultural exchange is important and all of our students would have an opportunity to share in that when students from Jamaica come to Selkirk College,” says Diachun. “Getting to play music together would be a strength of this exchange because music is a common language. They will bring what they have and we will give them what we have, it will work beautifully.”

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Students currently enrolled in the Selkirk College Contemporary Music & Technology Program now have an opportunity to apply for the exchange this January. For more information please contact Melody Diachun at