Music Invites Diverse Slate of Speakers to Studio Performance Class

An integral part of the Music 101 Studio Performance classis theopportunity to engage withguest speakerswho are leaders in the music performanceand compositionindustry. The recital class for music majors and minors spends a few classes each semester learning from a guest musician. To kick off 2021, Professor T.J. Harper and Dr. Wojciech Kocyan introduced the topic of diversity in music making to the guest speaker series.   

In January, Dr.JaceSaplan,the Director of Choral Activities and Assistant Professor of Musicatthe University of Hawai’iMānoa,was invited todiscuss the ways performing, composing and studying music can communicate and affirm BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ experiences.Then in February,DayramirGonzález, an Afro-Cuban jazz pianist who is known internationally for his orchestrations and compositions,talkedabout his musical background and the impact of his upbringing in Cuba on his compositions, performing and artistic vision.  

“As a woman of color studying European music, it was inspiring to hear from Dr.Saplanand Mr. González that what I study in school and my ethnic background can coexist,” saidGabrielle Poma,a senior Vocal Performance student.  

Both speakers had the opportunity to share some of their music performance and discuss the ways their identities influence their relationship to music in an academic setting. Dr.Saplanshared a video ofa  Wai Chamber Choir performance, a professional vocal ensemble dedicated to the preservation of Hawaiian choral music, where Dr. Saplan is the Artistic Director.Dr. Saplan grew up in Hilo, Hawaii where his grandmother was his first contact of performance music in the tradition of her ancestors from the island. Heattributeshis connection with his ancestors through music as the reason why he isa choral directorand music professortoday.  

“Dr.Saplan’stalk emphasized not rejecting a part of you just because it doesn’t fit into the Western framework,” saidJeremy Lee, a junior Economics and Music double major. “I hope to reflect on using every part of my experience to inform my music making.” 

Gonzálezillustrated his creative process as a jazz musician by demonstrating his improvisation on the keyboard.“Theway that Mr. Gonzalez improvised and talked about his composition processshowed thathe’s at a point where music is just pouring out of him,” saidLilly McCarty,a senior Music Theory and Composition student. “He told us that when he improvises he can’t even remember what he is playing because it just comes out of him so naturally. Mr. Gonzalez also reflected on using his academic knowledge of music theory in relation to the way he plays music with his dad and his friends. The idea of using music theory to engage with his culture is really freeing and beautiful.”

The Studio Performance studentsappreciated the discussionsfromboth guest speakersaboutbringingyour own identity intotheacademic musicsetting.“Gonzáleztalked about how grateful he isto havelearned his musical foundations in classical training,” said Dr.Kocyan. “Usinghisclassicalskills,he was able tobecome an expertjazz pianist, showing that studying classical music is not limiting, in fact it’s quite the opposite. The creative process is rooted inknowledge, as González demonstrated in his improvisations. I think both Dr.Saplanand González’s talks have helped students reflect on their own discovery of their identities withinan academic setting where they are classically trained. 

The Music Department is looking forward to welcoming guest speaker William Chapman Nyaho, a pianist who specializes in music of the African diaspora, in the upcoming fall semester.