Hunter receives Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology

Justin Hunter

Justin Hunter successfully defended his dissertation.

Congratulations to Justin Hunter! He successfully defended his dissertation, “Vitalizing Traditions: Ainu Music and Dance and the Discourse of Indigineity,” at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in May 2015. Hunter is an ethnomusicologist specializing in Indigenous studies, Japanese studies, and world music pedagogy. He received his Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa and his BA and MM from the University of Arkansas.

Paper Abstract:

For over two hundred years, the Ainu of Japan have been colonized in their ancestral lands and faced deep discrimination in the purported mono-ethnic, homogenous Japanese society. Despite the Japanese government’s official recognition of the Ainu as the Indigenous people of Japan in 2008, the Ainu continue to fight for their rights and to maintain their identity. In this dissertation, I examine the various ways Ainu use expressive culture to highlight their cultural differences in order to reaffirm their identity against assimilatinist policies. Taking advantage of the growing awareness of global Indigenous rights, the Ainu participate in the global discourse of Indigeneity by making connections with Indigenous peoples around the world. Through these efforts, the Ainu draw attention to their struggle and demonstrate that they are a living, breathing, and vital people, despite being forgotten and rendered invisible in the colonial history and memory of Japan.

This dissertation focuses on the “staging” of Ainu identity by Ainu people in various physical and metaphysical spaces in Japan and beyond. These grassroots efforts place the Ainu in charge of their own representation. By focusing on musical and dance performances, and the overall representation of Ainu on various stages, I view these performances as dynamic, active, and productive “vitalizing traditions,” rather than the popular perception of tourist performances as only negative and inauthentic. These performances provide a glimpse into the ways in which the Ainu use expressive culture to perform, understand, and create new avenues to express and construct a sense of Ainuness through propelling activities rather than re-building ones.

The ethnographic settings presented in this dissertation collectively probe themes of traditionality, authenticity, performativity, Indigeneity, and agency. I argue that a rigid application of these terms tends to cast Indigenous expression, presentation, and performance as inauthentic or as constructed tradition and in the process ignore Indigenous peoples’ active and nuanced roles in asserting their ethnicity on their own terms. Re-framing descriptions of Indigenous peoples’ artistic output as intentional and dynamic not only gives voice to Indigenous people but levels the playing field by viewing Indigenous creativity as deserving of support rather than needing rescue and resuscitation.

Hunter’s previous research focused on an historical ethnomusicological study of Western military music in Japan prior to the rise of the Meiji Restoration (1868). This work was presented at both international and national conferences. His dissertation research looked at contemporary understanding of music and dance practices of the Indigenous Ainu of Japan. His dissertation, “Vitalizing Traditions: Ainu Music and Dance and the Discourse of Indigeneity,” attempts to position a study with an Ainu-centric focus to highlight the propelling work in the arts by Ainu communities while questioning binary understandings of such terms as “authenticity,” “tradition,” and even “Indigenous.” This research has been presented at numerous national conferences including the Society for Ethnomusicology and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association.

Hunter is the editor of the Society for Ethnomusicology’s SEM Student News and serves as a member of the society’s advisory council. Additionally, he serves in leadership roles for numerous special interest groups, sections, and committees for the society. He has book reviews in Ethnomusicology Forum and the journal Notes. He is a member and alumnus of the Alpha Omicron chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and was inducted into Pi Kappa Lambda in 2009 at the University of Arkansas campus.

Summer Chamber Music Festival to Honor Professor’s Career, Retirement

Stephen Gates, cello.Musical quartet practicing

Stephen Gates, cello.Musical quartet practicing

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The seventh annual KUAF/Fulbright Summer Chamber Music Festival will close with a concert at 7 p.m. Friday, June 5, in the Great Hall at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville.

The performance will feature faculty members Er-Gene Kahng (violin), Paulo Eskitch (viola) and Stephen Gates (cello) and guest artist Ryan Cockerham (violin).

Cockerham is a composer and performer of contemporary art music who also designs immersive sound and media installations. Recent projects include collaborations with Tamarin Stott and the English National Ballet, Rob Olins and the Royal British Society of Sculptors and Huishu Jia and Lucia Tong with the Royal College of Art. His work has been featured in the Kansas City Fringe Festival, Houston Fringe Festival, the Royal College of Music’s 2012 and 2013 “Great Exhibitionists” series and the London Short Film Festival.

Selections for Friday’s concert include:

  • String Quartet no. 5 by Philip Glass
  • Front to Back String Quartet by Ryan Cockerham

Cockerham composed Front to Back in honor of Gates’ career and retirement.

The performance is free and open to the public thanks to support from the University of Arkansas, the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Music and private donors. Contributions for the KUAF/ Fulbright Summer Chamber Music Festival may be made online or by contacting the Fulbright College development office at 479-575-3712

Music clips and biographies of the performers and guest artists may be found on the festival’swebsite.

Guest Pianist Joel Fan to Perform June 5th

Joel Fan will perform this Friday, June 5th, at 8pm at the Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall.

Joel FanPianist Joel Fan is acclaimed as “soaring” (Los Angeles Times), “fantastic” (Washington Post), and possessing a “probing intellect and vivid imagination” (New York Times). Celebrated for his exuberant virtuosity, and a bold repertoire that embraces piano classics and inspired discoveries of contemporary and world music, Fan re-invents the piano recital by illuminating the rare and unexpected – creating, in the words of the Baltimore Sun’s critic Tim Smith, “one of the most satisfying piano performances I’ve heard.”

Joel Fan’s discography illustrates Fan’s highly creative musical persona. Following his work on Leon Kirchner: Revelations – critic Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times proclaimed Fan as an “impressive pianist.” Of Fan’s recital disc, West of the Sun, the Toronto Star stated, “Fan offers nine stunningly brilliant renditions drawn from a wide range of styles and sources… Capping it all off is an arresting interpretation of Samuel Barber’s fearsome 1949 Piano Sonata. Wow.” Fan’s solo CD World Keys contains five world premiere recording tracks – creating a “deeper, more rewarding experience” (Minnesota Public Radio) – and reaching #3 on Billboard’s Classical Chart.

As a concerto soloist, Fan has performed over 40 different concertos with orchestras worldwide, including the New York Philharmonic, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, the Odessa Philharmonic, Singapore Symphony, and London Sinfonietta, with conductors such as David Zinman, Zubin Mehta, Alan Gilbert, and David Robertson. According to the Boston Music-Intelligencer: “We’ve heard many of the great pianists… Fan belongs in the company of the best.”

As a recitalist, Joel Fan has found an enthusiastic following on numerous stages ranging from the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, Jordan Hall in Boston, Calgary Celebrity Series, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Internationally, Fan has performed recitals on four continents – most recently in tours of China, Cuba and South America. Along with his innovative programming, Fan delivers Mozart with “eloquence and sensitivity” (Boston Globe), and brings “a steely power and feather-light touch to Prokofiev…and redblooded Romantic gestures in Kirchner’s sonata” (New York Times). “He deserves special praise for the spontaneity, wit, and emotional urgency he drew from the music” of Bolcom and Carter (Washington Post).

As a “champion of new music” (Boston Globe), Joel Fan is also recognized for his work with cellist Yo-Yo Ma as a member of the Silk Road Ensemble, appearing at Carnegie Hall and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C., and on the television programs Good Morning America and Late Night with David Letterman. Fan has also collaborated with numerous leading ensembles, including the Shanghai Quartet, Orion Quartet, Imani Winds, and A Far Cry chamber orchestra.

Joel Fan’s latest album, Dances for Piano and Orchestra (Reference Recordings), presents another turn in Fan’s original approach to repertoire. The disc is a wide-ranging journey focusing on the intersection of music and dance, with rarely heard compositions by Chopin, Saint-Saëns, Pierné, Weber-Liszt, Castro, Gottschalk, and culminating in a world premiere recording of Charles Cadman’s Dark Dancers of the Mardi Gras. The disc was released in October 2014 in conjunction with the Northwest Sinfonietta chamber orchestra and music director Christophe Chagnard.

Joel Fan was born in New York City to Taiwanese parents, began early musical studies at the Juilliard School, earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard University, and a Master of Music degree in piano performance from the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University. He attended the Tanglewood Music Center and the Steans Institute at the Ravinia Festival. Fan is a prize winner of several international competitions, including the Busoni International Piano Competition in Italy. He was also the winner of the Kosciuzko Foundation’s Chopin Prize, and named a Presidential Scholar by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. Fan studied with the composer Leon Kirchner and the pianist Leon Fleisher.

Joel Fan has recorded for Reference Recordings, Sony Classical, Verdant World Records, and Albany Records. He is a Steinway Artist.

Registration Is Open for Magic Note Music Studio Summer Camps

Thmagicnote-297x300e University of Arkansas’ Music Outreach Program in partnership with the Arts Center of the Ozarks will offer two summer music camp sessions for young children this June and July. The childhood music program is called “Magic Note Music Studio” and offers both Music & Movement classes for children ages 3-4 and Beginning Piano I for children ages 4-6. Children will sing, play, explore percussion instruments, listen to music from various genres, and experience musical activiites specifically designed to stimulate early childhood development. Classes will be held at the Arts Center of the Ozarks in Springdale.

  • Music & Movement: Children (3-4 years) will feel comfortable using their voice, body and instruments to produce and experience music as they build a strong musical foundation through songs, dance, and notation exercises.
  • Beginning Piano I: Small group piano classes for children (4-6 years old) prepare students for private instruction. Each class is limited to 4-5 students and works on rhythm, notation, and basic skills on piano.

Summer Music Camps - PosterFree demonstrations will be held at the Fayetteville Public Library at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 6, and Tuesday, July 21. Parents and children will have the opportunity to see how the classes are structured.

To learn more and to register, please go to the Magic Note Music Studio website.

University of Arkansas Music Outreach programs strive to offer high-quality music programs to a broad community base. They do this by offering a comprehensive music program, providing educational and enriching musical experiences for all ages. Community outreach is one of our highest priorities, and our vision supports this objective.


Nikola Radan, Music Lecture instructor
Music Department


Graduate Music Student Receives Kristin Lewis Foundation Scholarship Prize

U of A Music Graduate student Judd Burns placed third in the Kristin Lewis Foundation Vocal Scholarship Auditions on March 28-29, receiving the “Kristin Lewis Foundation Young Artist Award” and a scholarship prize of $1500.  Geared towards the exposure of young, exemplary Arkansas vocal … Continue reading

Honors College to Host ‘April Fool’s Day’ Concert by the Lyrique Quintette

The Lyrique Quintette includes music department faculty members (l-r) Timothy Thompson, Ronda Mains, Theresa Delaplain, Nophachai Cholthitchanta and Lia Uribe.

For music lovers who enjoy spring – and a surprise or two – the Honors College is hosting an April Fool’s Day Concert (really!) at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 1, in the honors wing of Ozark Hall. This concert is the latest in the Honors College House Concert series, performed in the beautifully appointed Honors Student Lounge (room 130). These concerts are offered at no charge, and all are invited to attend.

“We are pleased to welcome all on campus and in the community to this latest ‘house concert’ in our beautiful new home,” said Curt Rom, interim dean of the Honors College. “Prepare to be delighted and amused.”

The Lyric Quintette includes music department faculty members Nophachai Cholthitchanta on the windbreaker and slide windbreaker; Theresa Delaplain on balloons and train whistle; Ronda Mains on slide whistle; Timothy Thompson on the “lasso d’amore”; and Lia Uribe on bell, kazoo and “tromboon.” They will perform music by Henry Mancini, P.D.Q. Bach, W.C. Handy, John Cage, Rimsky-Korsakoff, and more. The quintet will be joined by a few props and several special guests, including Jeannie Lee from the Department of Theatre.

Please RSVP and come early to reserve your seat. A light reception will follow the concert.

Alum Update – Michael Chandler

Michael Chandler lives in Dallas and taught elementary general music in Texas public schools for 16 years, most of them in the Lewisville Independent School District where he was named Teacher of the Year at two schools. In 2005, 2007, and 2013 his student ensembles were featured performers at the TMEAMichael Chandler Clinic/Convention in San Antonio. Michael presents music education workshops and sessions at the local, state, and national levels and teaches in Orff Schulwerk certification courses at universities in three states. He is an accompanist for the Children’s Chorus of Greater Dallas and is currently working full time toward the PhD degree in Music Education at the University of North Texas in Denton. Michael is a 1996 graduate of the University of Arkansas and earned the Master of Music in piano performance and studied with Alan Chow. In 2009, he also earned the Master of Arts in Music Education from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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