CalArtian Receives Fulbright Scholarship to Indonesia

Sean Hayward (Music MFA 15, DMA 19) has been selected as a recipient of a Fulbright Award to Indonesia.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is a prestigious cultural exchange program that seeks to improve cultural understanding between U.S. citizens and those of other countries. Hayward will spend his Fulbright time alongside local artists to research and further the understanding of “calung Banyumas,” a southwestern Central Javanese ensemble style, as well as to create and perform new ensemble works.

The Los Angeles-based musician developed an interest in Indonesian music after performing a piece for electric guitars and Balinese gamelan during his undergraduate studies at University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC).

“I felt drawn to the instruments and played Indonesian music more and more until I had the opportunity to study in Java for a year on scholarship from the Indonesian government in 2013,” Hayward told the 24700 blog during a recent email interview.

In Java, Hayward studied Central Javanese gamelan at Indonesian Institute of the Arts Surakarta and performed with international music collective Sri Mara.

“I came back for the DMA at CalArts, but have spent the summers in Java during that time to continue my studies,” said Hayward. “I’m a guitarist originally, but much of my recent work has focused on experimental music with Javanese gamelan (bronze ensemble).”

Hayward is fascinated by the populist nature of calung, which, unlike the prohibitive costs of traditional Indonesian court gamelan ensembles, relies on inexpensive and easily transported materials.

“With respect to Indonesian music, the Western world has focused disproportionately on the court gamelan tradition,” said Hayward. “While the gamelan may be readily found in most any village in Java, the cost of materials and transportation has resulted in a lack of accessibility in the United States. Almost all gamelan are in the possession of universities, many of whom have steadily reduced funding over the last 15 years for the musical instructors required to play them. CalArts is one of the few remaining schools in the country that has full-time faculty dedicated to the performance of Javanese music.  

“My study of calung is partially due to my own perceived need to wrest the control of Indonesian music away from the whims of university administrators. The instruments are cheap to construct and transport, and can be easily used for performance outside of the university. This seems to be a vital change if Indonesian music in the US wishes to survive the coming educational-financial crisis.”

Hayward released his debut album Nowhere Found in 2014, and has since released Buaya (2018), a collection of experimental gamelan gandhon music. He also conceived and composed Untu’s 2019 album Rats of Oran, a death metal and gamelan fusion inspired by Albert Camus’ La Peste. Untu is the metal incarnation of CalArts’ Gamelan Suara Baru, of which Hayward is the founder. Hayward also performs as one half of the guitar-violin duo, Duo Meranti, with composer-violinist Chrysanthe Tan (Critical Studies BFA 14, Music-Critical Studies MFA 17).

“I hope to further my own abilities as an artist, musician, and educator while simultaneously encouraging the proliferation of Javanese music, and in particular calung,” said Hayward of his Fulbright goals. “My idea is that this may generate further projects and opportunities for my Javanese collaborators. In the future, I plan to perform these works in the U.S. as well as in Java.”

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