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Institutional Eurocentrism in Japanese Higher Education: Teacher Training, Government Policy, and Traditional Japanese Music
Individual Paper Presenter(s)
Garrett B. Groesbeck
Wesleyan University, United States
As the spaces where music educators of all levels are trained and enculturated, Japan’s academic institutions are critically important entities in shaping the country’s musical identity and relationship to its history. The particular ways in which its first music school was structured had enormous implications for the future of music education in Japan, and precipitated the current disparity between government policy and practice in music classrooms. A significant amount of scholarly attention has been paid to the Meiji government’s suppression of traditional Japanese genres, as well as to the ways in which Tokyo College of Music founder Shuji Isawa’s musical philosophy de-emphasized Japanese performance styles and compositional technique. With that historical background as a basis, this paper details the ways in which Euro-centric ideas continue to shape music education and discourse, as well as how institutional inertia in Japanese music schools conflicts with updates in Ministry of Education (MEXT) policy. In spite of lip service paid to traditional music as an important part of Japanese cultural heritage, analysis of music college application materials, websites, and public-facing brochures reveals a carefully curated approach to music education that continues to center European classical music. It also provides a point of comparison between sonic and visual traditional arts, with fine arts such as ink painting, ceramics, and architecture retaining a relatively higher place of prestige than musical forms like gagaku, nagauta, or sōkyoku koto repertoire, indicating traditional music’s unique vulnerability to cultural imperialism.