Professor of Music Education and World Music
What year did you start working at NIU?
Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
I grew up in a small town nearby Hsinchu City in Taiwan. I live in DeKalb now.
Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
I attended the music department at Soochow University in Taipei, where I received my B.F.A. degree in music in 1993. I came to NIU as a graduate student in 1995 and earned two Master of Music degrees, one in piano performance (1997) and the other in music education (1998). I went on to pursue doctoral study in music education at Arizona State University, and I received my doctoral degree in 2007.
In which department(s) do you teach?
School of Music, College of Visual and Performing Arts
Were you a first-generation college student? If so, what advice would you offer to current first generation students?
Yes. I was a first-generation college student. My advice for current first-generation students is to explore as much as you can on campus resource-wise, and be the best you can be academically.
What do you like about working at NIU?
NIU has most of the resources I need to develop my career in higher education. The support I've received from professional staff, administrators and colleagues I have worked with is beyond my expectation. I've also had many opportunities to work with serious learners, both graduate and undergraduate students, to help them develop their career, which has been absolutely rewarding throughout my time here.
What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
Take advantage of what the faculty can offer. Challenge the faculty in a positive way! For me, teaching is learning, and I am all about embracing challenges from my students.
Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
I am interested in children's singing games and intrigued by how effectively children learn from each other in play. I have conducted several research projects, including one sponsored by the Fulbright Foundation in 2016-17, to study Javanese children's singing games in various historical contexts. Specifically, I look into the sociocultural functions these singing games play in child development in Indonesia. I plan to expand this project to study singing games of various Asian cultures, such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. I am also in the process of documenting the contributions of Asian American performing artists in the Chicago area to compile a list of pedagogical resources to teach about Asian American cultures and history of the 20th century.
What do you enjoy most about mentoring students?
I enjoy most when being challenged by my students in a positive way! I embrace challenges from my students because I believe that each of my students is unique, and it keeps me motivated and wanting to learn more from each of them.
What do you hope students take away from their college experience?
What I want for my students to take away from my class is a learning habit that allows and motivates them to learn anywhere and anytime. What I teach content-wise in the classroom setting is limited, so I am always hopeful that my students will learn beyond the course materials and transcend their learning to a higher level, where they would become their own teacher to improve themselves day after day, even after they are done with school.
What is your favorite memory of NIU?
Going to football games with my students. Seeing many of my students play in the Huskie Marching Band always excites me! Hosting many concerts and world music festivals in the School of Music is always a fond memory as well! I also enjoy attending concerts performed by faculty and students in the School of Music. Sometimes I attend cultural events, such as Southeast Asian Cultural Night, Multicultural Night and Culture Fest.
What’s one thing about NIU that’s surprised you?
I can't think of anything about NIU that has surprised me...maybe because I've been here too long?
What fulfills you personally and professionally?
Seeing that what I care about in student development is also something valued by the institution and the community of which I am a part fulfills me personally and professionally. It always excites me when my students tell me how much they enjoy me as an instructor, mentor and friend who helps to make a difference in their life. Whenever I hear that, I would always be grateful to NIU for the engaging and safe learning environment it has provided me to nurture my students and to fulfill my life goal as a caring individual.
Which of NIU’s core values align with your own?
NIU's core values in equity and inclusion best describe how I see myself as an individual. As a musician and music educator, I've strived to connect with people of diverse backgrounds, hoping that through music, a harmonious community will be reached where every member is valued and respected.
Have you contributed to any NIU Foundation fundraising campaigns such as the Day of Giving or Huskies United? If yes, why did you decided to support NIU?
Yes, I've contributed to fundraising campaigns, such as the Day of Giving; crowdfunding for several projects to support the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, the Asian American Resource Center and the Asian American Certificate Program (AACP); some memorial funds, such as the Jan Bach composition competition fund; and AACP scholarship funds. The primary reason I donate to NIU is because I care about our students. I believe in the power of education and know how much of an impact a quality education at a higher education institution can make. I am happy to know that my contribution can help ensure such high-quality education for serious learners who need the support.
Do you keep in touch with any NIU alums? If so, are there any doing something interesting and exciting that we should know about? Please share some information with us and we’ll consider them for a future feature.
I've kept in touch with several of my graduate students who continued to pursue doctoral studies in ethnomusicology. Among those are Joe Kinzer, who received a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from the University of Washington in 2018; Aboud Agha, who received a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from UCLA in 2019; Methew Tembo, who received a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from the University of Pittsburg in 2021; Pei-Han Lin, who received a DMA in piano pedagogy from Texas Tech University in 2022; and Jiaqi Li, who is an ABD (all but dissertation) in ethnomusicology in the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Several of my students who have stayed in this area are adjunct instructors for community colleges, teaching courses related to music and culture: Aerie Dover and Matthew Werstler, who hold positions at the College of DuPage; Quentin Dover at Waubonsee Community College; and Tzu-Tsen Wu at Elgin Community College.
Some students have been active in performance. These include Amirah Ali, world music pop singer/songwriter, and Tamir Hargana, multi-instrumentalist and Mongolian throat singer.
Who has influenced your professional path?
Dr. Kuo-Huang Han, my predecessor, was always there when I needed his guidance in getting myself ready to teach when I first started here in 2004. Dr. Jere Humphreys, the mentor for my doctoral studies at Arizona State University, is another important figure I always look up to. A first-rate scholar in music education, Dr. Humphreys not only taught me to be competent in what I do professionally, but also demonstrated to me what a humanitarian person with integrity is like. His life experiences in higher education are truly inspiring.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
I was hoping I would become a diplomat when growing up. When I was younger, I always dreamed about traveling around the world as a grown-up, and I really enjoy learning different cultures somewhere out there. Although I did not pursue this "dream job," I have managed my study and my career so that I can constantly learn something new about world cultures and travel as much as possible as an academic. Being able to promote cultural understanding through music, which is a big part of my job, makes me feel that I am somewhat a cultural ambassador as well.
Are you participating in or have you participated in any NIU shared governance or professional development groups? If so, how has your participation enhanced your experience as an employee?
I was one of the 10 faculty members selected to participate in the 2022-23 Emerging Faculty Leadership Program hosted by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost. This one-year experience not only provided many insights into what leadership is like in higher education, but also allowed me to network with higher level administrative staff and other faculty outside of my home department. I am also serving on the Committee for the Improvement of the Undergraduate Academic Experience and the Committee for Academic Equity and Inclusive Excellence. All of these have enhanced my experience as an employee here at NIU because they allow me opportunities to connect with students and colleagues across campus.
Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional or community organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
I am a member of several important professional organizations in ethnomusicology and music education, such as the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM), International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM), International Society for Music Education (ISME) and National Association for Music Education (NAfME). The primary purpose of these organizations is to network with other academics and to improve myself to be up to date in teaching and scholarship.
In addition to being a member, I currently serve on the editorial board for ISME's International Journal of Music Education, as well as NAfME's Music Educators Journal. I review approximately six to eight manuscripts annually for them. Through this process, I make myself familiar with current research and practical trends in music education, not only in the U.S. but also the world.
I think being part of the organizations and holding a position within them helps me to demonstrate to our students that learning and teaching are lifelong processes, and there are always people out there you can benefit from if you are willing to learn.
What do you do to relax or recharge?
I travel a lot during breaks, sometimes aligning the trip with professional engagements. Being able to visit different places and people always gives me "fresh air" that is so enjoyable! And I go to the movies often to indulge myself at a space and time that takes me out of my work routine. A two-hour treat to allow my imagination to go wild is an effective way to recharge.