Kornelius Purba (The Jakarta Post)
Sat 11 September 2021
Peter Jonatan, Indonesian composer, arranger, orchestrator and educator, received his doctorate in jazz studies from the New England Conservatory of Music (NEC) late last year, making him one of the first Indonesian musicians to own such a degree in jazz music. . He also completed his graduate studies at the same institute in 2014 and currently teaches at the NEC.
In a recent conversation with Jakarta PostPeter shared that his long experience with jazz and classical music began when he was 4 years old. He had always shown interest in other genres of music, and his introduction to church pianist Priscilla Dianawati broadened his perspective beyond the genre he later mastered.
Ibu Diana, as Peter calls Priscilla, became his teacher for six years starting in 1996. She taught Peter to accompany church and choir music. He also studied at Yamaha Music School Indonesia (YMI) for five years, then at Yayasan Pendidikan Musik (YPM) for five more.
Peter says that an abundance of talented musicians and singers can be found in Indonesia, but many have insufficient musical education and depend only on natural talent. They also study music very late compared to children in the United States. This explains, he says, why few Indonesian musicians can survive and be successful for long.
Studied at Nanyang Technological University
Born in Jakarta on July 25, 1983, Peter graduated from high school in Jakarta in 2002. He continued his education at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore in 2002 and obtained his undergraduate degree in Materials Engineering. in 2006. He was offered the opportunity to continue his studies in materials engineering at the doctoral level with a full scholarship. He intended to become an engineer and, eventually, a teacher-researcher at the university.
But he was also still eager to pursue his musical dreams. He consulted and talked with his relatives, especially his parents. They all concluded that a musician was not a promising profession at all and preferred Peter to become an engineer because he had graduated from a major university.
Go to Berklee College of Music
Three years after graduating from NTU, he decided to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a musician. He chose Berklee College of Music in Boston as his next destination. He became an undergraduate student for the second time.
“Performance and composition are the two most popular programs. But at Berklee there are many other programs, like sound engineering. Students learn to mix and manage sound systems. Then there’s therapy music for hospitals and sound design, ”said Peter.
During his second semester, Peter chose jazz composition as a specialty, although he had only limited knowledge of the genre. At Berklee, there are two major in composition choices: classical music and jazz.
“In jazz, we have to be creative and we have to develop what has been written. “
Move to the NEC
Peter graduated in 2011 and planned to work as a composer. Realizing that he was still totally unknown in the United States, he decided in 2012 to continue his studies at the NEC, also in Boston, as Berklee did not have a postgraduate program. The conservatory is classified 4e or 5e in the world. It is also unique because 80 percent of its students study classical music. It serves as a training ground for cellists, violinists and double bassists.
He graduated in 2014 and went straight to the doctoral program. He only finished it in 2020 because he was also asked to teach there. He finished his studies at the end of last year. His thesis was on jazz composition.
Readjust classical music
In discussions with professors and other speakers, Peter suggested a readjustment of the curriculum because he felt it was outdated. “If we only teach classical music, without combining it with modern development, we will not be able to compete with more modern universities. My idea was accepted – everyone agreed. Then we redesigned the program to include music technology, ”said the speaker.
“[We need to] harness technology, especially during this pandemic, the Zoom era, where people collaborate through online media, ”said Peter. “If they don’t know [computer-based music] editing, we have to try to integrate music technology into the programs with classical music.
Classical musicians are often indifferent to non-classical music. According to Peter, classical music is experiencing a market reorientation. The classical music market will remain forever, but it will be limited, he believes. Peter said the genre should develop “to relate more to today’s world”.
Many musicians and singers still have difficulty reading musical notation, said Peter. So how can they play music when they can’t read the notes? Many Indonesians are talented musicians. But to reach a wider audience, they need to master the theory and not just rely on their self-taught skills.
“If you just want to play in a cafe, you don’t have to learn more [skills and theory]. But if you’re playing with 15 people, you can’t play alone, and there should be sheet music. “