USD’s new chair of music plans to expand learning and performance opportunities in his department and campus-wide. Ethnomusicologist David Harnish, PhD, is fascinated by music and world cultures, and has already introduced an Indonesian Gamelan Ensemble at USD. In the near future, he hopes to bring students such diverse offerings as mariachi, opera, musical theatre and more!
Dr. Harnish, tell us about your background in ethnomusicology. What drew you to this area of study?
I was drawn to ethnomusicology long ago as a musician who went abroad to Japan for a year during my undergraduate education. I had a marked interest in Asia and combined my love for music with my love for world cultures. I wrote my senior thesis on music in Japan. A few years later, I traveled throughout Asia and studied music in the various places I visited.
I then attended a master's program in ethnomusicology at University of Hawaii and enjoyed the music cultures of the islands. I turned my attention to Indonesia, received a Fulbright grant to conduct field research, and spent over a year in the country. After writing my thesis and graduating, I attended UCLA for my doctorate in ethnomusicology and again visited Indonesia several times to complete research projects.
What are your research interests?
I have been fascinated with two different cultural phenomena: religious ritual and popular culture. Most of my work has concerned music in ritual. For example, my book “Bridges to the Ancestors: Music, Myth and Cultural Politics at an Indonesian Festival,” concentrates on music and religion on the island of Lombok; and my more recent book (co-edited and written), “Divine Inspirations: Music and Islam in Indonesia,” focuses on the variations of Islam in Indonesia and its impacts on music. Recently, I have been writing about hybrid music forms, combining music and jazz or rock, in Indonesia.
I understand you started a gamelan ensemble here at USD. What is a gamelan and what can you tell us about its history?
We began the Gamelan program in January. Gamelans are the orchestras of Indonesia known for their distinctive sound and social communities. The USD Gamelan is a for-credit music ensemble open to all students on campus. We play a Balinese-style of gamelan called angklung. Our first concert is March 23 at the Second Annual San Diego Gamelan Festival. We will debut on campus in our concert on May 7. For that concert, we will feature a Balinese dancer performing a unique masked dance tradition. Everyone is invited and all students are encouraged to join us for a semester in the future.
"We are still small, but growing and we have outstanding faculty skilled in academics and performance."
Can you describe the sound of the gamelan ensemble? How many musicians does it take to play yours?
We have about 15 musicians. The ensemble consists of metallophones, gongs, drums, and gong-chime instruments. The music is cyclic and includes intricate interlocking parts to create a dynamic sound. No prior experience is needed or expected. Gamelan is a group experience. There are no superstars, only the dynamism of the ensemble.
I understand you would also like to start a mariachi band! When can students get involved?
I have been working with Alberto Pulido, PhD, Chair of Ethnic Studies, to bring Mariachi to USD. I am happy to announce that the program will begin next fall. This will be a student ensemble with an adjunct faculty specialist, Serafin Peredes as instructor. In addition to a for-credit ensemble that will meet one night per week in a class, a student club is forming for both Mariachi and Folkloric dancing. Of course, all students are welcome! To join the Mariachi/Folklorico club, students can contact Alma (Ruby) Beltran. This is a very exciting opportunity for USD. We also hope to sponsor the all-San Diego Mariachi Showcase next spring.
As the new Chair of the Music Department, what are your goals for the program, faculty and students?
My goals are to grow the music program, to develop new performance and academic opportunities for all students at USD, and to increase involvement across the campus. We have started a move toward Opera, including the Student Ticket Initiative that provided student access to San Diego Opera productions made possible by a generous donor. In addition, we hope to attract new students interested in voice, we are expanding the Chamber Ensemble and are hoping to revive the USD Symphony Orchestra within a few years. We have developed a fine Jazz ensemble and now a Jazz combo and will be looking for new opportunities for those students to play throughout San Diego. We just began a single-subject teaching credential in music.
I want to build new collaborations with Theatre. In addition to Opera, we are considering musical theatre and a show choir. I am reaching out to the San Diego community to find support to develop one of the finest student string quartets in the area. We are partnering with Ethnic Studies and multicultural student organizations in Mariachi and Ballet Folklorico. We are creating bridges throughout the campus and community.
What strengths do you see in the USD music program?
We are still small, but growing and we have outstanding faculty skilled in academics and performance. Our Choral Scholars, Chamber Ensembles and Jazz Bands are excellent; our university Choir is fine; and our Gamelan and Mariachi Programs are underway. We will continue to grow, increase numbers of music majors and minors, appeal to students throughout campus, and partner with organizations like San Diego Symphony and San Diego Opera within the region. Our direction is upwards as we increase quantity and quality of offerings.
- Anne Malinoski ‘11