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The Best Job in the World
A Reading Comprehension Passage by Common Core Texts

I just might have the best job in the entire world. It’s certainly the job that best fits my passions and personality. I am an ethnomusicologist. It’s a fancy-sounding word with a simple meaning. Let’s break it down: “ethno” means “people,” “-ologist” means someone who studies something, and “music” – you already know what that means. In other words, I study the music of different types of people all around the world.

My specialty is the music of Central America. For three months of every year, I travel to the mountains of Ecuador with my notebook, my audio recorder, and my microphone. I seek out local musicians. I record the music they play. I also write down their stories: who they are, where they come from, how they learned to play music, and what their songs mean to them and their people.

I guess you could say that I’m part journalist and part music producer. The music producer part is easy: I just turn on my microphone and let the musicians do what they do best. But the journalist part took practice. First, I needed to learn enough Quechua, the local language of the area, to communicate with others. Then I needed to make friends with people in the community. I needed to show them who I was, why I was there, and what I planned to do with my recordings.

I spend the other nine months of each year teaching and writing about what I learned in the mountains of Ecuador. I teach a class at the local college called “The Music of the Quechua Peoples,” and I am just finishing up a book called “Mountain Songs.” Going from my air-conditioned office at the college to a tiny mountain village in Central America can be quite an adjustment, but its part of what keeps my job interesting. I return from my travels exhausted, but by the end of the school year, I always find myself excited to visit my Quechua friends again.


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