Music in Micronesia: Creating a Studio-Production Company (Jayden, Chuuk ’14)
Interview by: Shierly Mondianti, Marketing and Publicity Intern
This week, I set up an informal interview to chat with one of our amazing WT alum, Jayden, Chuuk ’14.
While at Chuuk, Micronesia, Jayden set up a sustainable studio-production business at Chuuk High School to record the beautiful voices in the island. Before we move on to the interview, here is an audio clip that Jayden shared with us:
Here are some of the things he had to say:
(S: Shierly; J: Jayden)
S: Jayden, tell me more about yourself—what were you doing before WT, what made you decide to start with WT, and why Micronesia?
J: Before WT, I was a music producer. I always wanted to travel around 25; I wanted to give back to a community and not just travel for myself. I decided on Micronesia because geographically it is near to where I’m from (Melbourne, Australia).
S: That’s great. So, Jayden, you recently returned from Chuuk. Tell me about how it is like to leave Chuuk and what is the plan moving forward?
J: Leaving Chuuk, there is the good and the bad. Good—the comfort and luxury of being home and family, bad—I made some great friends that I probably will not get to see for a long time. In terms of plans for the future, I am writing a political intrigue fiction book.
S: Wow writing a book! You are definitely pursuing your creative endeavors to the fullest. I am curious, how much knowledge did you have of Chuuk prior to starting out at WT. Did you already know that music plays a key role in the Chuuk community, and if so did you from day one already know that this is a project that you would like to do?
J: As soon as I applied for WT, Paul Hadik (community activist) reached out to me. He worked at one of the teaching sites on the island and had been wanting to build a music studio for some years. Initially I had intended to just go as a teacher but there was a real opportunity for me to put my knowledge and expertise to good use.
S: Starting a music production studio is no easy feat and you did a lot of productive work at Chuuk! In the midst of the teaching work that you do at the high school, how did you find time to handle such a big project?
J: There is literally nothing but time over there! There are so many things you can do because you don’t have all the distraction like you have back at home, so you can get a lot done in the day… or sometimes not much
S: Could you possibly share with me how you navigated Chuuk High School’s administration? How did you bring up this idea of a studio to them and actually make this happen?
J: Paul used to be the principal of Chuuk high and pioneered the program. Music is a large part of not just the students but the communities lives and so the idea was welcomed with open arms. The studio is funded with school funds and community contributions. As well as a studio, we have put together a record label, “Typhoon Records.” The label is just starting up and will sell the songs recorded in the studio. The label will see half of the profit be paid back to the artists and half go back into the school and studio development. Leaving Chuuk, I also left a 440 page text book in hopes of the program being sustainable going into the future.
S: Last question, I promise, could you elaborate on some of the challenges and rewards in your time at Chuuk?
J: In terms of the studio, one of the key challenges was resources. For a studio wall you need soft and foam like surfaces. We had several mattresses donated and managed to foam one and a half walls but there is still much more to be done. Another challenge was working with some members of the community. One of the guys I worked with in the first weeks of the studio being built came and recorded what could have been the biggest song of the island. We needed a few more sessions to finish the song but he never came back. I kept appealing to him to come in to the studio to complete the recording, but it never happened for one reason or another. In terms of teaching the obvious challenge is the language barrier but I found the biggest challenge to be content. I was teaching history to year 9 students. I started teaching out of a text book but found many of my students didn’t have the basic concepts to build on, such as what a war is, why people would go to war, global religions, etc. I figured there was no point teaching complex topics if the core concepts weren’t there so I went back and designed some units around the concepts of history.
S: Great. Well, thank you so much for your time, Jayden! I really appreciate it. What you did at Chuuk is amazing. I think it is wonderful to leave a sustainable impact and contribute to the communities that we serve, and I am so glad that you are able to do so at Chuuk.
J: It is my pleasure. Thank you.
If you are interested in some of the work that Jayden has done, here are some resources that Jayden has provided us.
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