By Karen Billing
A truly unique musical experience will take place on the Canyon Crest Academy campus on Friday, April 29, as the school hosts its first Gamelan Festival. The festival, presented in part by the Center for World Music, celebrates Canyon Crest as the first American high school to purchase a full gamelan and gives an opportunity to hear some of the traditional music the students have learned to play from high caliber instruction.
“We hope that it’s a success and that it becomes an annual event,” said John Gabriel, executive director of the Center for World Music. “We’re hoping that the community comes out to support this program.”
The festival will feature about 75 performers in Javanese, Sudanese and Balinese gamelan groups from California State University San Marcos, San Diego State University, The Museum School, Kembang Sunda, and the Canyon Crest group. The show will be led by guest Indonesian artists Bapak Ade Suparman and Bapak Djoko Walujo and will showcase performances by Indonesian dancer Didik Nini Thowok.
The show starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10-$15 and are available at
Bringing a gamelan to Canyon Crest came about last year when the Center for World Music joined forces with CCA to offer the traditional music program year-round. With support from the CCA Foundation, the school was able to purchase its own gamelan and teacher Anne Whattoff traveled to Indonesia with one of the students to obtain the instruments and learn about the artist who owned it and its rich history.
CCA’s gamelan includes metallophones, xylophones, drums and gongs. The set is played together to create its distinct interlocking melodies, music associated with the royal courts of Java. It is also used in the shadow puppet tradition of Indonesia.
To teach the student the art of gamelan, CCA and the Center for World Music brought in Bapak Djoko Walujo, arguably the most famous Javanese musician alive, Gabriel said.
“This program isn’t about just learning music, it’s about learning about the world by doing what other people do,” said Gabriel. “By studying with a master artist from Java and performing music from Java, the students gain experiential knowledge of what it’s like to be Javanese.”
“They are learning from an authentic, credible source,” said Whattoff.
When asked why he was interested in participating in gamelan, junior Zak Auerbach responded, “ Look at it,” gesturing to CCA’s green set accented by ornate gold dragons.
“A lot of what I’m involved in with music—rock band, choir, jazz—it’s all very western,” Zak said. “I think there’s something to be said for broadening your horizons and taking something so far removed from what you’re used to. It’s a different way of playing music.”
About 20 student musicians like Auerbach have taken part in the after-school gamelan program.
“These kids are really brilliant,” said Gabriel. “It’s very clear that not only are they quick to catch on and learn a new music tradition but they are also aware that this is a very unique opportunity…It’s really amazing what’s going on here.”
To purchase tickets, visit
and search for Gamelan Festival 2011. Canyon Crest is located at 5951 Village Center Loop Road.