Cultural Preservation Through Childhood Songs: The Vietnamese American Lens

Ms. Tina Huynh
Research Track
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Cultural Preservation Through Childhood Songs: The Vietnamese American Lens. The Over 1.5 million Vietnamese American refugees and immigrants live in the United States (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010), primarily due to the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Acculturation of Vietnamese Americans has led to sociological discourse in the past couple of decades (Lieu, 2002). However, issues pertaining to cultural preservation, particularly in early childhood music, remain largely unexplored. The purpose of this study was to delve into the attitudes of first generation Vietnamese American parents regarding teaching Vietnamese songs in early childhood, to inquire upon the level of interest of these parents in passing on their Vietnamese cultural roots through children’s songs, and to document Vietnamese children’s songs that are currently being sung to young children. Participants consisted of twenty Vietnamese American parents residing in Orange County, California with young children aged 1 month to 3 years. Recruited through snowball sampling, parents answered an initial questionnaire, five of whom volunteered to participate in an interview. Interviews consisted of open-ended questions and voice recordings of the songs the parents sang with their children. Results suggested that Vietnamese identity was strongly valued, as was the desire to pass on Vietnamese culture through songs and language. Participants also noted that limited musical resources and memory lapses of songs posed a challenge. These insights inform music educators toward teaching in a more culturally responsive manner, and provide supporting ground for cultural activists who may wish to preserve early childhood Vietnamese songs. Additionally, these findings have led to the creation of “The Vietnamese Children’s Songbook”, a collection of songs intended to be published, in an effort to fill the gap of limited musical resources that are available to parents.

Ms. Tina Huynh is an active musician and educator in the Southern California area. She has 15 years of experience teaching a wide variety of music to all age levels in both vocal and instrumental music in public, private, community, and studio settings. Her performances as a flutist and conductor of the Vietnamese American Philharmonic Youth Group have been broadcast internationally on Vietnamese TV, radio, and newspapers. Ms. Huynh is currently attaining a doctor of musical arts D.M.A. degree at USC.