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Fulbright scholarship music to NIU professor’s ears

July 20, 2016

Jui-Ching Wang, a music professor at NIU, heads
to Indonesia on a Fulbright Senior Scholar Award.

Jui-Ching Wang, an associate professor of world music and music education in the NIU School of Music, has been awarded a U.S. Fulbright Senior Scholar Award for 2016-17 to Indonesia.

This award will enable her to carry out a research project in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Wang will spend 10 months studying traditional Javanese children’s singing games, dolanan anak, an important part of Javanese children’s early lives in the past that allowed them to explore and make sense of their world when there was no formal education.

“I’ve always been interested in learning children’s singing games around the world. I was looking for some teaching materials from the Southeast Asia Special Collection books in Founders Library. I accidentally discovered a series of song books from Indonesia and found this interesting singing game tradition in Yogyakarta,” Wang said.

Wang plans to study the songs that accompany these singing games, tembang dolanan anak, to transcribe and analyze the melodies, interpret the texts and translate them into English, and define the changing educational functions.

She will study with faculty at Universitas Gadjah Mada and a local elementary school that still teaches dolanan anak in Yogyakarta.

“In my (Fulbright) proposal, I try to look at this singing game tradition from the perspectives of history, child development, education, children’s literature, music and cultural studies,” said Wang.

This will be a return trip for Wang. She received funds from NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies in 2013 to travel to Yogyakarta, where she visited faculty who taught Javanese children’s literature at University Gadjah Mada. It sparked a quest to learn more.

“I’ve kept in mind that if one day I could put together a proposal to study everything there is, I’d be so happy. When I learned about Fulbright’s calling for proposals, I put together what I have dreamed about to study, and I was very fortunate to receive the award,” she said.

Jui-Ching Wang

Jui-Ching Wang

Another important reason to study dolanan anak is because the tradition is rarely discussed in ethnomusicology and music education in the English-speaking world. “I think I will be able to contribute to enriching the scholarship in both fields,” she said.

A strong voice in the relatively young field of world music pedagogy, Wang organized the first Teaching World Music Symposium, held at NIU in April 2015, attracting presenters and guest artists from several countries and states. She teaches world music courses and oversees various world music ensembles, and she has taught a summer study abroad course on the arts in Bali. She initiated a Master of Music specialization in world music. Her students come from the United States, Taiwan, China, Zambia, Syria, Malaysia and Inner Mongolia.

Wang hopes her Fulbright experience will motivate her students here at NIU to explore the interdisciplinary possibilities in music research.

“I am also hoping more students will be taking advantage of the strong Southeast Asian Studies program we have at NIU,” Wang said. “After all, it is through the special Southeast Asian collection in the library, and the financial support from the Center for Southeast Asian Studies that the seeds in me started to bloom.”