Bridging worlds through music

(01-03-2018)

Adams State music professors Dr. Tracy Doyle (center) and Dr. James Doyle (second from right) with colleagues in Japan.

Communicating through music, artists connect across continents. Dr. Tracy Doyle and Dr. James Doyle traveled to Japan to collaborate, perform, and share their love of music and art.

They hope to establish an international exchange between Adams State and Gunma University. "International exchange in the arts provides an opportunity to think objectively about yourself as a musician, and about how music functions in society, both the commonalities, as well as the differences," Tracy said.

James agreed: "Anytime you travel anywhere and interact with different musicians, stateside or abroad, it widens your perspective."

Tracy Doyle and Dr. Chiho Sugo, a Gunma University music professor, did doctoral work together at Louisiana State University. They rekindled that friendship and began an exchange of music, travel, and educational opportunities for students of both Adams State and Gunma University in Japan.

According to Tracy, Gunma University has an active international program and a great interest in establishing an exchange program with Adams State. The creation of a formal exchange agreement would not necessarily cost anything, but would provide a structure within which students and faculty may apply for and receive grant funding to support international collaboration. "It could be as simple as regular visits between universities for students and faculty interested in learning more about another culture," Tracy added.

An Adams State visiting scholar during the fall of 2016, Sugo remained in Alamosa until the following April. According to James, Sugo presented her perspective on Adams State at an International Exchange Symposium where she spoke about the Music Department's focus on chamber music and community engagement, as well as the Ethos: Exploring Equity Through Music project. "When Professor Sugo presented on her experience at ASU, it allowed us to view our institution through the eyes of another," Tracy said. "We are doing so many things right here at ASU, and in many cases are ahead of the curve. It is important to step back to recognize and celebrate that fact."

This September, Tracy and James shared their passions - music and education - in Japan. A highlight of the visit included performing two collaborative concerts for the Nakanojo Biennale Arts Festival. They presented the concerts with Sugo, Gunma University music education major Miyu Matsui, and Gunma University sculpture professor Koshi Hayashi. The in-the-round concerts took place amongst Hayashi sculptures recently installed for the festival at a mountain-site sculpture garden.

"Performing in the forest will be a lifetime memory," James said. "The concert at the well-known hall in Tokyo fulfills the professional side, but the performance in the forest amidst Hayashi's sculptures was so special." During the performance, hundreds of migrating butterflies flew among the musicians and audience members. "It was a surreal experience," Tracy added.

Throughout their stay, the Adams State music professors taught lessons and masterclasses to Gunma University students, interacted in English language discussions with students and faculty in a variety of degree programs, and studied curricular designs at Gunma University. The Japanese university's music program only offers music education. "The university is small by Japanese standards," James said. The student body reminded them of Adams State students. However, there are differences. "In teaching Japanese students, there is a focus, politeness, and awareness that is unique, as well as a different level of curiosity," James added. "They tend to sit very quietly and politely listening to the professor." Although the Japanese students study English throughout their schooling, they hesitated to practice the language in front of classmates and instead would approach the visiting lecturers afterwards to ask questions one-on-one.

"I found it remarkable that despite the difference in language, communicating complex ideas and concepts about art, music, and collaboration was natural and effortless," Tracy added.

This was their second trip to Japan and to Gunma University, located in Maebashi-City in Gunma Prefecture. On both visits they were immersed in the culture, working closely with artists and musicians, meeting friends and families, and being invited into homes and places of work.

"We experienced the way art and collaboration impact the local community, which is not unlike Alamosa," Tracy said. "The most incredible art was happening there. It was a stimulus for the economy, but also created a paradigm shift for many of the residents as they saw their hometown through the eyes of others. This was an important concept we were able to bring back to the classroom. As our students at Adams State create art in Alamosa, Colorado, we are able to better facilitate their understanding of the global nature of what it is they do, and the impact art has on communities large and small."

Tracy and James covered most of their own traveling expenses; James had professional development funds for half of his travel, and Gunma University provided stipends. They also stayed with Sugo at her residences in Tokyo and Maebashi.

One of the Japanese students, "a wonderful pianist and percussionist," hopes to visit Adams State in spring 2018, and another Gunma University student hopes to attend as a part-time international student in spring 2019. "It is interesting to learn about shared and different values with other musicians and artists," James added.

The Doyles and Sugo have been working on an album of works for flute, clarinet, and marimba, which is currently in production. When Sugo returns to the United States, they plan to do a regional tour presenting music from the CD, including a work commissioned for the trio that is inspired by the sandhill crane, a bird important to both the San Luis Valley and Japanese culture.

"The experience of collaborating with Professor Sugo, who our students also met and worked with, stimulated conversations about the creative process and what it means to be an artist," Tracy said.

Tracy and James are committed to Adams State students and their own passion for music. Tracy teaches applied flute, chamber music, and courses in music education. She has performed at the National Flute Association Convention, the College Music Society Conference, and the Colorado Music Educators Association Conference. James teaches courses in percussion, music business, and improvisation, and directs the jazz ensembles, steel bands, Alpine Backbeats Drum Line, and percussion ensemble. He performs regularly with the San Juan Symphony, the Music in the Mountains Festival Orchestra, and performs and records for numerous Austin and Nashville-based popular music artists.

Eleven days in Japan with Tracy & James Doyle

  • Performed in a solo and chamber recital that included the premiere of two works by Japanese composer Ippo Tsuboi in Tokyo at the renowned Suginami Kokaidou Concert Hall along with Professor Sugo and concert pianist Kiki Kashiwagi.
  • Presented on Adams State and international exchange, and performed for 90 undergraduate, master's, and Ph.D. students at Gunma University for the Global Frontier Leaders Seminar. This was a select retreat at Mt. Akagi for students with interests or experience in international travel, study abroad, and international exchange.
  • Presented on Adams State University, the San Luis Valley, the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, and ASU Equity work; served on an international panel discussion on international exchange; and performed a recital for faculty, staff, and students at the Gunma University International Symposium.