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Music tour of Thailand is a both a homecoming and a trip of a lifetime

June 26, 2014

Patommavat Thammachard is going home.

Known simply as "Note" by friends and faculty at Indiana State University's School of Music, the native of the Thai beach resort town of Hua Hin, is currently pursuing a master's degree at Indiana State in guitar performance. The 24-year-old is looking forward to introducing his classmates to his homeland, its people and traditional Thai music this summer as part of a three-week experience in Thailand, where they will conduct percussion clinics, perform and participate in an international conference.

"They will learn a lot about Thai culture because we will go to many places in Thailand," he said. "I feel really fortunate to go back home and see my family and to perform with the percussion ensemble."

But while it is a visit home for the graduate student, it is also a trip of a lifetime for the eight student members of Indiana State's percussion ensemble.

The students, accompanied by music professors Brian Kilp and Jimmy Finnie, will leave July 8 for a performance and total-immersion experience.

Having Note's tie to the area also comes in handy.

"He's a built in tour guide and translator," Finnie said joked. "In reality, he's a major part of the program. He's an incredible player."

Note started playing the guitar at 14, influenced by his father.

"He is a guitarist. I started playing guitar to be like my dad and because I enjoyed rock music."

The trip will be a busy one, according to Finnie.

After arriving in Bangkok, the group will engage in cultural activities as guests of Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University. The ensemble will perform at the Thailand Navy School and conduct clinics with local high school students before departing for a five-day residency at Chiang Mai Rajabaht University.

"At Chiang Mai, their music faculty will teach our students Thai traditional music," he said. "When our students return to campus this fall, they will showcase what they learned through demonstrations or performances of Thai traditional music."

The group will go back to Bangkok to continue working with high school students before ending their visit with a 90 minute performance at the Thailand Brass and Percussion Conference on July 26.

"It was an invited performance," Finnie said. "Providing a high quality performance that represents the university well has been our motivation for the past nine months as we practiced and prepared."

Note said the ensemble's performances will be different from what Thai listeners have experienced.

"The concert will cover many style like classical, Jazz, contemporary, and modern," he said. "I just want the audiences to have great musical experience."

The ensemble will perform a familiar work during their trip, the Thai king composition "Near Dawn." ISU music faculty member Daniel Powers orchestrated a special arrangement of the piece for this trip.

"This song is a Thai favorite," Note said. "I hope the audiences will like our new arrangement. "

The visit is eerily similar to how Note found his way to the Terre Haute campus.

"Indiana State and my university in Thailand have a strong connection. ISU sent students and faculty members to share the musical experience with us. I always participated in those activities," Note said. "Dr. Kilp introduced me to ISU, giving me all the information I needed to prepare for my master's on campus."

In addition to his master's studies, Note also teaches young students enrolled in the Guitar Club through Indiana State's Community School of the Arts.

"The best part of teaching the Guitar Club is putting a lot of people who love guitar together and learning each other's style," he said. "I can also practice and improve my teaching skills."

 The trip is about much more than music. It's about personal growth and respect.

"Most of my students are from rural areas and it's their first trip outside the States, so this is going to very eye-opening," Finnie said.

"Just to see a culture that is different than ours. The growth is beyond musical knowledge. I want them to have greater respect for cultures other than their own."

It also presents an opportunity to see a major political upheaval and possibly history in the making.

"To see the concern of the Thai people and learning why they're concerned is an opportunity for growth. But only if it's safe."

The contingent, funded by the School of Music, Office of International Programs and Services and the Center for Student Research and Creativity, will log more than 17,000 miles roundtrip.

 

Contact and Writer: Paula Meyer, ISU Communications and Marketing, 812-237-3783 or paula.meyer@indstate.edu

Story Highlights

A 24-year-old Thai graduate student will accompany the music faculty and the percussion ensemble on a three-week experience in Thailand, where they will conduct percussion clinics, perform and participate in an international conference.

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