I’m Gerard Yun, musical performer, researcher, teacher, and ongoing student across several musical traditions. I am a native of the Sierra Nevada Foothills of Northern California, a descendent of San Francisco Chinese, with a background rooted in Western classical music as well as several other musical traditions that I discovered and pursued alongside my formal education, including Zen Buddhist shakuhachi, Native American flute, overtone singing, and West African drumming. When I came to Canada in 2006, my mostly separate Western classical and cultural/global music worlds started to come together. In my years here, I conducted and workshopped choirs (Bell’Arte Singers of Toronto, The Hamilton Children’s Choir, and numerous honour choirs and festivals from Newfoundland to Manitoba), gave world music demonstrations and collaborative performances, developed workshops in choral improvisation, founded and ran a cross-cultural music series (East-West), and designed and taught new courses in global music and contextual music studies. However, it wasn’t until colleagues at Wilfrid Laurier University discovered the emerging field of community music that my musical worlds began to fully converge. We had many discussions around the topic and became committed to developing a graduate degree program. That program is in its fourth year at the time of this writing and a new undergraduate stream has been developed as well.
Community music allows me to explore and teach about connections made with, through and because of music. We are connected to one another, the land, the planet, our relations, traditions, culture, and societies. I am compelled to explore, research, and inquire into these connections and their relationship to music. Much of my classical training was steeped in “right” and “wrong” ways in music. Community music frees me from seeing my role as that of a judge or keeper of cumulative knowledge and instead puts me into the more vulnerable spaces of facilitator and learner. It not only invites me to new roles, but demands that I shift into seeing and empathizing from multiple perspectives.
To put that in perspective, my curriculum vitae presents a musical career steeped in high profile opportunities to teach, conduct and perform at national and international levels. While I was grateful for these professional opportunities, I found myself increasingly questioning how I could use my musical skills and interests to contribute to the betterment of my own world, my people, students, and community. The field of community music and the program that we are developing at Wilfrid Laurier University have created a space in which exploring these questions has become the central aspect of my practice. There are a few academic sources that characterize community music as being “music as hospitality,” but my feeling is that we actually know very little about community music as a global phenomenon. After all, it is a big world with many traditions, cultures, communities, and musics (plural). So, I work to further observe, define, and illuminate the field with the intent of creating more engaged students, healthier communities, and ultimately a better world. That is admittedly idealistic, which I think after 30+ years as an educator is something of an accomplishment.