Gerard Yun

Gerard Pict-1I’m Gerard Yun, contemplative musician, practitioner and professor of community music, intercultural music performer, researcher, teacher, and student of the interface between musics and our worlds. 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 other musical traditions discovered and pursued alongside my formal training and professional work as a choral-orchestral conductor. These areas include Zen Buddhist shakuhachi, Native American flute, Asian overtone singing, and West African drumming.

Immigrating to Canada allowed my Western classical music training and my traditional cultural music training to come together.

When I came to Canada in 2006, my mostly separate Western classical and cultural/global music worlds began to coalesce. In my years here, I conducted and workshopped choirs, gave world music demonstrations and collaborative performances, developed workshops in choral improvisation, founded and ran an intercultural music series, and designed and taught new courses in global music, contextual music studies, and most recently in various aspects of community music (social justice, leadership and facilitation, intercultural music encounters). The Masters degree in Community Music at Wilfrid Laurier University was created in 2013 and I am proud to be one of the founding teachers. In 2016, the undergraduate program admitted its first cohort of students and we are well into developing and tweaking that program as well. 

Community music in action at the Benefit for Attawapiskat Concert, Waterloo, ON, May 2016. 

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, cultures, and societies. I am compelled to explore these connections and their relationship to music.

Much of my classical training was steeped in “right” and “wrong” ways of music-making. 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. In short, I must accommodate, support, and move with multiple “ways of knowing.”

Student conductor, Alan Xaykongsa after leading “Shosholoza” with the combined University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier Concert Choirs in the Benefit for Attawapiskat Concert, May 2016

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 in Canada and the United States. While 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 our world, our peoples, our students, and communities.

Exploring these questions has become the central aspect of my practice. Academic sources characterize the field of community music as being “music as hospitality,” but we actually know very little about community music as a global phenomenon. 

My approach relies increasingly on the practice of intercultural music-making contained within a framework of contemplative compassion practices and research.

These practices are drawn from mindfulness studies within their cultural and historical contexts, and are intended to engage community music as an effective tool of social justice, cultural engagement, as well as personal and social change.

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.

Gerard Yun plays the Shakuhachi (Zen Buddhist, vertical, bamboo meditation flute). Photo by Natasha Choo

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