In 1996, while I was president of PAS, I was honored to be invited to represent PAS at the Taipei International Percussion Festival by its founder, Tzong-Ching Ju. Since PAS had no budget for such an expensive trip, Mr. Ju graciously volunteered to pay all expenses for my wife and me. Together with Tim Peterman, Dr. Walter Viegl, Kwang Suh Park, Heung-Wing Lung, and members of several performing ensembles, we toured one of Ju's 31 schools and received an introduction and overview of Ju's system of percussion education.
It was obvious from my first meeting with Mr. Ju that he was a visionary of percussion education, programming, performance, and administration. His unbounded energy and enthusiasm for the percussive arts was truly amazing, and his philosophy of music education eye-opening. According to Professor Ju, music is an important part of culture, and a rounded musical education contributes to society's cultural progress. Thus, in addition to actively promoting artistic and cultural activities, Professor Ju also places a high priority on enhancing the standard of Taiwan's musical environment. "The fundamental task of creating a good artistic and cultural environment and making music a part of everyday life must begin with educating children," Ju stated. "Through children's musical education, music is naturally brought into every home."
In 1986, Mr. Ju founded the Ju Percussion Group (JPG), the first percussion ensemble in Taiwan, which would bring worldwide recognition to Mr. Ju, the ensemble, and the country of Taiwan. The group performs a wide variety of percussion music including traditional Asian music, Chinese gong-drum music, and Western percussion music, sharing their talents with audiences in Asia, Europe, Australia, and the United States. Their performances have become legendary and include appearances at the PASICs in Dallas, Texas and Louisville, Kentucky, the Budapest Spring Festival with Amadinda Percussion Group of Hungary, the Beijing Music Festival in China, Chekhov International Theatre Festival, and on a cultural-exchange project, Les Douze Lunes du Serpent, which premiered in December 2001with Les Percussions de Strasbourg of France. The group's experiments in musical theater have resulted in three multimedia productions: Fantasia, Dream of Chimes, and See the Music. The Ju Percussion Group has also toured nationally and internationally with the Cloud Gate Dance Theater and the Lanling Theater Workshop.
The JPG has released numerous highly acclaimed recordings. Two of them, Keep the Fire Burning and The Mountain's Beat, have been honored with the Golden Tripod Award. The live recording of the 10th anniversary concert in 1996, a special double-disc set, received the 1997 Golden Melody Award, an equivalent of the Grammy in Taiwan. In the same year, Beat the Drum won the award for Best Composition in the classical music category. In 2002, the CD set Shiny Days was released in celebration of the group's 15th anniversary.
Since its inception, the Ju Percussion Group has championed original percussion music through ongoing commissions and premiere performances of Taiwanese composers Nan-Chang Chien, Hwang-Long Pan, Shui-Long Ma, Loong-Hsing Wen, Ting-Lien Wu, Gordon S. Chin, Chien-Hui Hung, Wan-Jen Huang, Chung-Kun Hung, and Kuen-Yean Hwang, among others. Arrangements of numerous traditional Chinese/Taiwanese folk tunes and children's songs by the Ju Percussion Group have contributed to the growing popularity of percussion music in Taiwan.
"I was really lucky that I had the chance to work with very important Taiwan musicians in the 1970s and '80s, such as Ma Shui-long, Li Tai-hsiang, Wen Loong-hsing Chien Nan-chang, Pan Hwang-long, Lai Deh-ho, and Hsu Po Yun," Ju said. "They are all ten years or so older than me, full of ideas, and always had new works published. Because they used a lot of percussion in their works, I got a lot of chances to work with them, and consequently their works inspired me. In 1986, I started Ju Percussion Group, and decided to mold the music style and language through commissioned works. JPG is one of the few groups that has a full-time composer-in-residence. We also devote a lot of resources to commissioning new works. Emmanuel Séjourné, Gérard Lecointe, Aurél Holló, Brian S. Mason, Kaoru Wada, and Koji Sakura are some of the great musicians/composers from whom we have commissioned new pieces. By commissioning new works, not only can we encourage Taiwanese musicians to create works full of Taiwan flavors, we also get to work with some of the finest artists and let the world know about us thru them. JPG has at present accumulated 214 commissioned works. This is our best pathway to 'bring the world to Taiwan, and bring Taiwan to the world stage'."
The importance and contributions of this organization are monumental and can be best explained from Mr. Ju's biography:
The Ju Percussion Group was established in January 1986 and is the first professional percussion group from Taiwan. The JPG digests Eastern and Western percussion to create the unique, diverse and rich repertoire style, and the vivid performance style, regardless of the national music hall or outdoor performances...interacting with the public and diverse performances develop the most close-to-heart and unique musical performance type...the JPG has been invited to the important international arts festival regularly; across four continents more than 25 countries with performances numbering over 2,300.
"My initial goal was to set up a first-class percussion group with charisma," Ju explained. "So I drafted a 15-year-plan with four directions: to perform, educate, research, and promote. And there was a goal for every five years, from amateur to semi-professional to professional. We became a professional percussion group in the first five years. What we are after is clear: to build our own unique music voice that blends tradition and modern, local, and international styles so we can take on the world in Taiwan.
"In the early stage of our development, percussion was a strange notion in Taiwan, so we had to try everything to promote it. We played everywhere we could, from concert halls to street blocks. Fortunately, we got more support and greater reaction than we had expected. Nowadays, JPG has become an important music group that exceeds what I had imagined. Not only in Taiwan, but also in China, Europe, and the USA we receive encouragement from arts lovers from all around the world.
"Over the years, I have had three focuses to my work: to cultivate new talents, to enrich content of our program by never-ending commissioning of new music, and to set up worldwide network through which we can promote our distinctive music. It is such hard work, but we gain a lot as well. As long as you do it, you will overcome every difficulty. The bigger challenge, as always, is the cost of operation, and I believe it is the challenge for every performing group in the world. The more you want to do, the more money you need, and sometimes the cost exceeds what we can afford. We heavily depend on box office, government subsidy and sponsors, and sometimes we get loans from banks."
As Founder and Artistic Director of the Ju Percussion Group, Chair Professor of the Taipei National University of the Arts, and Emeritus Professor of National Taiwan University of Arts, Mr. Ju has impacted thousands of students in Taiwan and around the world. According to PAS Past President Rich Holly, "Mr. Ju also founded what might best be described as the Suzuki of the percussion world, in his numerous Ju Percussion Schools throughout Taiwan. Mr. Ju conceived of the idea, wrote all the materials (books, lessons, posters), designed all of the spaces for the schools, and trains all of the teachers. Today there are many thousands of Taiwanese children studying percussion at one of these schools."
In 1992, Mr. Ju founded the Ju Percussion School, whose teachers follow a unique instructional method that incorporates music theory, music-making experience, educational theory, and child psychology while also taking into account the complex interpersonal dynamics of contemporary society. This method provides a fruitful learning environment where children can come into contact with music, feel music, and love music while at the same time experiencing tremendous personal development. The distinctive features of this method are:
Creativity--Children's latent creativity is stimulated by percussion music, with its diversity of instruments and rich range of sonorities. Instructors guide and encourage students to use any objects conveniently at hand to make instruments of their own, create innovative sounds, and give appropriate expression to their emotions.
Sense of Rhythm--Percussion possesses the most abundant sense of rhythm of any branch of music. Therefore, if percussion is made the first step for children learning music, they will be bound to lay a firm and solid musical foundation. The orderly rules inherent in the world of rhythm can help build up a sense of order in a child's life.
Group Coordination--In today's nuclear families, children often have few opportunities to learn how to interact successfully with other children in a group. Percussion music's distinctive ensemble playing can train children's group coordination skills, enhance their willingness to cooperate with others, and reinforce the gregarious aspect of human nature.
High Achievement--For the beginner, percussion offers relatively unchallenging, frustration-free musical instruments to learn, while readily providing a sense of accomplishment. Since percussion instruments are easy to play, they build up the child's confidence and help to nurture self-confidence, independence, and other positive aspects of a healthy character.
Presently, the Ju Percussion Teaching Schools employ 89 instructors--82 in Taiwan and seven abroad, each of whom is a caring and patient music teacher with specialist knowledge, thorough musical training, and a keen love of music education. Instructors are trained to let children happily learn and grow in an atmosphere of encouragement and love. Every instructor in the system is carefully selected from among graduates of university and college music departments. After initial selection, teachers undergo three months (400 hours) of pre-service teacher training, and after appointment, an additional 100 hours of in-service training designed to further enhance their teaching techniques.
"After JPG was founded in 1986," Ju recalls, "I and the group members performed everywhere we could, and the audience kept asking, 'Where can I learn percussion?' All the members were too busy to take on teaching jobs, so I started contemplating the possibility of designing an education system, and I put my idea to the test. The system was founded in 1991. What I thought about the system was simple: Every person has a heartbeat. Percussion is like human instinct, so it is a perfect stepping stone for kids to get in touch with arts. And everything that makes sounds can be used as percussion instruments. Kids can have fun learning music as if they are playing games, and then gradually they can learn to 'feel' music, express feeling, and eventually acquire the taste for arts appreciation. So I gathered a group of people to develop the idea and materials. Targeting at three- to eighteen-year-olds, we designed different content for different age groups, and we train teachers accordingly. The teachers spread the seeds of arts in the community, and the music schools serve the function of arts center."
To bring a worldwide range of musical experiences to his students, Ju established the Taipei International Percussion Summer Camp (TIPSC), bringing international artists and ensembles to Taiwan. One of those international performer/teachers was PAS Hall of Fame recipient Gordon Stout, who made four visits to Taipei, where he taught at the Taipei International Percussion Summer Camp and performed with the Ju Percussion Group.
In 1994, Ju initiated another project, The Traditional Percussion Center, with the mission of preserving traditional percussion music. In 1998, he launched the Arts Circle, a magazine to further promote percussion music and the arts.
"It has always been my goal to blend traditional and modern music," Ju says. "I was trained in Western context, and was familiar with organized classical training methods. However, traditional music materials sometimes were not well organized and systematically archived. So I thought there should be a center or organization that helps organize, archive, and study the traditional music scores, instruments, and researches, and maybe one day could provide the materials to the composers and performers. So I started the first professional 'traditional percussion center,' connecting important percussionists from Taiwan and China, and devoted to the exploring, researching, and promoting of traditional music. Personally, I and the group benefit from the process. Now, the spirit of the center is embedded in JPG's daily practice; our members never stop learning and absorbing from traditional music. It always shows in our new works and every performance."
The Taipei International Percussion Conference (TIPC), conceived by Mr. Ju, has hosted the leading percussion ensembles from the United States, Japan, Korea, France, Sweden, Hungary, Germany, Canada, Australia, and the Netherlands. These concerts have set the standard for the highest quality percussion performances in the world, providing tremendous motivation for performers of all ages. Former PAS President John R. Beck writes: "Next to PASIC, the Taipei International Percussion Conference is the largest festival of percussion in the world. Founded in 1993, in many respects TIPC is more impressive than three days of PASIC. With concerts in five cities around the 13,974 square miles of the island of Taipei for seven days, it is an organizational miracle. Several PAS past-presidents have attended this convention and can attest to the scope, quality, and amazing organization of the event."
In 1976, Mr. Ju graduated from the National Taiwan Academy of the Arts followed by study at the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Wien (Vienna Academy of Music), where he studied with Walter Veigl and Richard Hochrainer, the former principal percussionist with the Vienna Philharmonic. He received a Diploma of Music Performance in Percussion from that institution in 1982. Further studies led to an Executive MBA Program in Senior Public Administration, College of Management at the National Taiwan University in 2005.
Tzong-Ching Ju has held numerous positions including: Chairman, National Chiang Kai-Shek Cultural Center-National Theater Concert Hall; President, Taipei National University of the Arts; National Policy Advisor to the President; Artistic Director, National Chiang Kai-Shek Cultural Center; Director, National Symphony Orchestra; Commissioner, Evaluation Committee, National Chiang Kai-Shek Cultural Center-National Theater Concert Hall; Chief Director, Performing Arts Center, Taipei National University of the Arts; Dean, Office of Research and Development, Taipei National University of the Arts; Chairperson, Department and Graduate Institute of Music, Taipei National University of the Arts; Chairperson, Graduate Institute of Arts Administration and Management, Taipei National University of the Arts; Consultant to PAS President (1999); PAS Board Member; Secretary General, National Committee, Asian Composers' League, R.O.C.; Executive Director, Ju Percussion Group Foundation; Consultant and the Planning Team Leader, National Chiang Kai-Shek Cultural Center-National Theater Concert Hall; Principal Percussionist, Taiwan Symphony Orchestra; Commissioner, Council of Academic Review and Evaluation, Ministry of Education; Commissioner, Committee of Arts Education, Ministry of Education; Advisory Commissioner, the General Association of Chinese Culture; Board Director, Association of National Universities of Taiwan; Advisory Commissioner, National Museum of History; Board member for the Alliance Cultural Foundation, Junyi School for Innovative Learning, Carrefour Cultural and Educational Foundation, Hsin Yi Foundation, Quanta Arts Foundation, Tsang-Houei Hsu Cultural and Arts Foundation, and the National Chiang Kai-Shek Cultural Center-National Theater Concert Hall.
The following honors and awards received by Mr. Ju attest to the many contributions he has made to percussion, education, and enriching the world's culture: Order of Brilliant Star with Violet Grand Cordon from the President of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou, 2015; Lifetime Achievement in Education Award, Percussive Arts Society, 2009; Outstanding PAS Supporter Award, 2008, 2002, and 1999; National Award for Arts, National Culture and Arts Foundation, 2000; Golden Melody Awards, Best Performer, Government Information Office, Republic of China (Taiwan), 1997; Fulbright Scholarship, Foundation for Scholarly Exchange, 1996; Golden Tripod Awards for Publication--Best Music Publication, Government Information Office, Republic of China (Taiwan), 1990; Golden Tripod Awards for Publication--Best Performer and Best Producer, Government Information Office, Republic of China (Taiwan), 1988; Ten Outstanding Young Persons, Junior Chamber International, Republic of China (Taiwan), 1988; Outstanding Youth Model, China Youth Corps, Republic of China (Taiwan), 1983.
The Taiwan Minister of Culture, Cheng Li-jun, praised Mr. Ju and what he has achieved for his country: "Through Tzong-Ching Ju and his group's extraordinary accomplishments in the area of percussion music, the world has a chance to see the beauty and vitality of Taiwan's performing arts scene. This once again confirms that the profound strength contained within the culture and the arts will be one of Taiwan's most important sources of soft power in the years to come."
According to Mr. Ju, "Percussion was such a strange notion in Taiwan 30 years ago, and now, it has become the second most sought-after instrument to learn, next to piano and before violin and flute. And a great number of excellent students choose percussion as their major in college. All of the hard work paid off, and the results were seen. So many people love percussion; that is what I am most proud of.
"There are so many good memories over the past 30 years," Ju continues. "Though my dreams did come true and JPG is now one of the top percussion groups, we still, from time to time, perform at schools, temples, and squares. Those unofficial performances keep reminding me of the touching moments we had back then. I started the education system 25 years ago, in the hope that arts can become part of everyone's daily lives. Up to now, more than 130,000 people have joined our school. I am utterly happy to have percussion part of so many people's memories."