The ultimate motive in education lies in the sense of value and importance. In Indonesia’s pragmatic culture, art is all too often seen as optional. This reality leads me to question if art is sufficiently emphasized in our contemporary education. The general value and role of art in society has long been assumed, while the specifics have just as long been debated. Based on my experience as a music student, trying to imagine our society without the humanizing influence of the arts, I would have to strip out most of what is pleasurable in life, as well as much that is educationally critical and socially essential. So what are the merits of art?
Started playing piano at the age of 4, I was touring around Singapore by the age of 7. It was my first time watching a live orchestra performance and it amazed me how so many musicians and instruments worked together to create such a beautiful piece of art as one collaborative entity. Since then, I’ve always nurtured a strong desire to play in orchestras and thankfully, my journey as a bassoonist began few years later.
I started to join some youth orchestras and actively involved in chamber music. When I was in grade 10, I went to Illinois Summer Music Festival at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign during the summer. It was my first time traveling internationally to join and perform in the orchestra. It was also my first time working with musicians, or even people in general, with whom I do not share a language. I remember a time when I struggled to communicate with a Japanese bassoonist sitting next to me due to language limitations. Interestingly, we bonded by playing Bizet’s Carmen, Entr’acte to Act II that featured a bassoon duet. Despite our cultural and language barriers, we were able to communicate stories and ideas in musical language, which infinitely transcends the spoken word.
In 2009, I received a scholarship to continue my study at Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University for my undergraduate and graduate study in bassoon performance, where I also minored in harp performance. At Johns Hopkins, I joined the Peabody Wind ensemble, Peabody Concert Orchestra, Peabody Conductor Orchestra, and Peabody Symphony Orchestra. I performed as the principal bassoonist on Naxos Recording playing Johan de Meij’s Lord of the Ring with the Peabody Wind Ensemble, which was later nominated in the Grammys under “Best Orchestral Recording” in 2014. The recordings were released on CD and iTunes a few months later.
While regularly performing, I was also working for Musicare, a non-profit group that creates social events to visit retirement houses, orphanages, and hospitals to play music. I believe that this social organization has mutual mission with musicians, as both aim to raise awareness of the importance of arts in communities, especially ones that are traditionally marginalized.
I would never forget how during one of the visits to the hospital, I played close enough to one of the patients who were blind. I leaned my instrument so closely toward her, to the point that my big bassoon was in contact with her tender legs. As I played slowly and softly, I watched her vacant eyes lighted up, her motionless body shook with laughter, and her silence soon crescendo-ed into song. Indeed, I witnessed firsthand how whenever art instills hope and joy in one’s heart, it also has a cathartic and healing power.
In the summer of 2013, I was accepted to attend the Banff Summer Arts Festival in Alberta, Canada where I received regular master classes from world-known musicians and performed with musicians around the world. After graduating from Johns Hopkins University in 2013, I continued my study at Manhattan School of Music pursuing professional studies certificate, where I focused more on performing for auditions and competitions. I started to explore more music variations during my study at Manhattan School of Music. I joined their Baroque orchestra, symphony orchestra, opera production, jazz ensemble, and modern music ensemble. I also took pedagogy classes there as I gained interest in children education. I graduated in 2014 and was accepted to join the New York Chamber Orchestra and the woodwind quintet at 92nd Y. I also started to work in the education department at Symphony Space that has a broad range of arts programs to their ever-growing audience, consisting of children and adults.
Working at Symphony Space is a whole new experience for me. One of the biggest programs that I am working on is called Curriculum Arts Project (CAP), which is a year-round multidisciplinary program that uses workshops, lecture-demonstrations, and interactive performances to reveal a deeper understanding of the world around us. Using traditional and contemporary art forms from Asia, Latin America, Native America, Africa, and Early American cultures, this program does not only introduce students to arts, but also offers them direct contact with artists in classrooms, after-school programs, school assemblies, and field trips. I believe this program functions as a window into other cultures and times that also stimulates excitement and curiosity about the people who created the artworks.
Apart from the office works from making curriculums to contacting teaching artists, I also go to classes and field trips with students on a regular basis seeing how students learn through different kinds of art. Recently, I went to 3rd grade Asian Studies Class where our Chinese teaching artists demonstrated and taught Chinese Ribbon Dance and also told the history behind it. It fascinated me how the students were actively involved in the experiential learning process through engaging themselves in dance and music.
On a recent performance, I played Verdi’s Requiem with an orchestra in the remembrance of the concentration camp as the prisoners used to sing this requiem in their captivity. We had testimonials from the survivors who are still alive as we performed. One of the old ladies said, “I loved singing this requiem in the camp because it gives me hope. It slows down my temper when I have hunger.”
Art, whether it is visual, spoken, or performative, all tell stories and inform us on how to make sense of our world. It enables us to create or infer meanings. It gives us the courage to imagine the unimaginable. It connects us to the past, present and future. In summary: Art inspires. Art connects. Art educates. Art heals. Art nourishes.
As I go along with my journey to create my own definition of arts and its importance, I finally realized that ultimately, Art transforms.
Content edited by Artricia Rasyid
Photo Credit: Stephanie Marcia’s personal collection