05/17/06 — Eastern Wayne grad will study in Morocco

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Eastern Wayne grad will study in Morocco

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 17, 2006 1:52 PM

Nathan Lean has studied piano for 16 of his 21 years. Classically trained, he has also studied jazz and says his passion is playing contemporary Christian music.

This summer, he will get to share his talents while absorbing the culture and discovering how music affects the daily life of people in Morocco.

The piano performance major at East Carolina University is the recipient of the college's first Global Understanding Scholarship. On June 2, he leaves for Morocco, where he will live in the capital city of Rabat and visit such nearby cities as Casablanca, Tangier, Fez and Essauoira.

Nathan Lean

Photo submitted

Nathan Lean, a rising senior at East Carolina University, is the recipient of the college's first Global Understanding scholarship and will study in Morocco this summer.

The grant covers six weeks of study, but Lean said he plans to extend the trip by two weeks to take advantage of the opportunity on his own.

Lean's enrollment in the school's Global Understanding course led to the overseas reward. The class featured video technology for students from different countries to meet on-line and become classmates. Taking it a step further, professors created a $6,000 scholarship to enable one student to travel to a partnering country.

Lean said he was pleased that Morocco was one of the options since he had gotten to know students and teachers from there and was interested in visiting.

"We'd discuss culture, traditions, education, even food," he said. "It would be real easy for me to go over there."

While some of his time will be spent researching the culture and the role music plays in Morocco, Lean said he will also be "taking it all in," attending festivals and having several occasions to perform.

The country is home to the International Music Festival, which will be held during his stay. There is also a conservatory there, which will provide him with a good resource to practice, he said.

He said he has already been invited to perform at the residence of the U.S. Consul General in Casablanca and at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador in Rabat, with the possibility of also taking part in the International Music Festival. He said he is also looking forward to performing at the World Sacred Music Fest.

In addition to playing, Lean also writes music. He said he has written a piano piece especially for the Moroccan people, which he will dedicate to them during one of his performances.

Traveling to a country that is 99 percent Muslim, he said he appreciates being able to share his talent even more.

"I feel like I have that tool to use. I feel like this is what God's given me; let me share it with you despite our religious differences," he said. "Part of creating harmony is having an acceptance of understanding.

"I see this grant as my way of experiencing another culture, which hopefully will lead to an understanding. I feel like this global course I have taken provided me with the opportunity to build friendships and relationships."

ECU is one of the few schools that offers the course, he said. Another bi-product is that he is now interested in pursuing a graduate degree in international studies.

"For me, I do what I can to promote cultural empathy. Now more than ever, it is important to understand people that are different and that the world is bigger than eastern North Carolina," he said.

Whatever he decides to do, Lean said music will always be a part of his life.

"I feel like music is a vessel for international studies and international studies is a vessel for music," he said. "It's a part of who I am. I almost feel like I didn't so much choose music as much as music chose me."

Since his graduation from Eastern Wayne High School, Lean has had many diverse experiences performing his music. He said he has played with several jazz groups in Greenville as well as on his college campus, often rewarding but at times hollow.

"I played a lot of places, got a lot of kudos for me, but decided that I wanted to do contemporary Christian music," he said. He recently became part of the band at his church, The Lord's Table in Goldsboro. "I want to glorify (God) because He's the one that's blessed me with all these opportunities."

After years of honing his skills, sometimes practicing up to eight hours a day, Lean admits it hasn't always been easy. But he said he appreciates the hard work that brought him to where he is today.

"I almost feel like if I wasn't a musician and this opportunity came up, I wouldn't have the tool at my disposal," he said. "Everybody has their gifts and talents. I'm so thankful that God has blessed me with this gift so that I can share it."