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Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College Acquires Gamelan, Traditional Balinese Musical Instruments

-- School Will Offer a New Course This Semester to Teach Students

To Play These Exotic Instruments from Indonesia --

FLUSHING, NY, January 21, 2011 – A traditional Balinese dedication ceremony took place at Queens College on January 19 to bless the gamelan—an ensemble of close to 40 ornate musical instruments from Indonesia that the Aaron Copland School of Music (ACSM) recently acquired. The instruments are considered to have great spiritual power. The blessing ceremony, which is required before the instruments can be played, included “offerings” of incense and flowers, followed by a performance by ACSM students in traditional costumes. The ACSM gamelan, the only public ensemble in the metropolitan area, includes metallophones, xylophones, drums, gongs, flutes and violins. 


ACSM Professor Michael Lipsey spent two months in Bali organizing the sale and delivery of the instruments, which were made by the Pande (skilled artisan) Sukerta, the most revered gamelan maker on the island.

In Indonesian culture, a melepas or traditional blessing ceremony is required for the naming of a baby, marriages, dedications of temples and homes and other milestone events. The gamelan blessing, which symbolizes the marriage between the spirit of the instruments and the musicians who play them, can be held only on certain holidays in the 210-day Balinese calendar known as tumpek. January 19 was considered an auspicious day for the event.

The instruments of the gamelan are built and tuned to stay together—instruments from different gamelan are generally not interchangeable. They are often played at official and life-changing events such as marriages, royal functions and government celebrations.  They are also used in concert music and to accompany dance, drama, theatrical and puppet shows.   

This semester ACSM will offer a new course to teach students how to play the instruments and broaden their understanding of non-Western music and culture. It will be taught by Pak (Sir) Nyoman Saptanyana, who studied gamelan at the famous conservatory STSI in Bali.

The Queens College Aaron Copland School of Music not only offers a range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, but it also maintains a vital presence in the cultural
life of Queens and the greater metropolitan area. ACSM students follow a curriculum designed to develop the interdependent skills of performing, listening to and understanding music. This provides the thorough training so necessary for graduate study and eventual professional careers. The School also forges strong links with the community through public concerts and recitals, as well as through collaborations with public schools, specialized programs and courses for senior citizens, and its Center for Preparatory Studies in Music, which serves up to 400 elementary and secondary school students each year.  


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Deputy Director of News Services
(Position vacant)

(718) 997- 5597

Maria Matteo
Assistant Director of News Services
Queens Hall, Room 270B
(718) 997-5593

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