Virtual Lecture: Jon Silpayamanant


A black and white photo of a man playing a string instrument.

Integrating Colonial Histories of Forced Musical Labor into the Music History Curriculum

The session will address the broader research and pedagogical project that Silpayamanant is developing on the topic of enslaved musical labor as an essential component of the European colonial and trade-expansionist project, drawing from his Bibliography of Slave Orchestras, Choirs, Bands, and Ensembles.


Born in Udon Thani, Thailand Jon Silpayamanant is an intercultural multi-instrumentalist, composer, researcher, and music educator based in the greater Louisville and Kentuckiana area. As a biracial Thai American with musical families on both sides of the world, he has been navigating musical code switching and bimusicality for much of his life and uses that experience to inform his understanding of how music ecosystems interact, hybridize, and create systems of exclusion.

A versatile musician, Jon has toured and performed extensively as a soloist and chamber musician. Performances have included appearances with Grammy Award winners Yo-Yo Ma, Ray Price, Hazzan Mike Stein, and Bobby Flores. He has also appeared with late Miles Davis’ tabla player, Badal Roy and his Jazz combo as well as a number of world music, chamber ensembles, and multi-media music projects.

A dancer’s musician, Silpayamanant regularly collaborates in performance with ballet dancers, modern dancers, and dancers from many traditional ethnic and classical dance traditions from many parts of the world. Recent collaborations include compositions and live performances with Louisville based Kasari Dance, Choreographer/Ballet Dancer Ashley Thursby Kern, and Nashville based Blue Moves Modern Dance Company. Silpayamanant has been a regular performer for composer Robin Cox’s HOURGLASS, an immersive music, video, and movement experience designed for contact improvisation which is facilitated by Choreographer/Dancer, Stephanie Nugent. His current dance related projects include arrangements and transcriptions for world music group Sulh of dance music from Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and India for collaborations with Raqs Maqom, the Crescent Moon Dance Company, BharataNatyam dancer, Shringarmani Phane Jayanthi Sen, as well as touring with the Louisville Ballet in performance lectures of “Plain Jane” with choreography by Lucas Jervies and music by cellist Tristan Parr.

Silpayamanant’s compositions and sound art has been featured in the UK on Channel 4 as part of Objective Productions programming; at the Vilnius Art Academy in Lithuania; on Açık Radyo in Istanbul; at Culture Fix in New York City, as well as several venues and radio stations throughout the US. His recent commissions include several scores for Louisville based Spanish Language Theater troupe Teatro Tercera Llamada and music for live-to-projection films and multi-media projects with interactive video and music project Camera Lucida. Past commissions include electro-acoustic compositions for the touring Diverse Universe Performance Festival Nordic-Baltic Tour in Estonia and Finland for dancer, Christine Olson; a score for several productions of “A Klingon Christmas Carol” (Chicago, Cincinnati, Washington D.C.); and a score for Chicago based Commedia Beauregard Theatre’s of “Bard Fiction.”

An active educator, Silpayamanant is currently an Adjunct Lecturer in Cello, Arts Institute Cello instructor, and a Summer String Clinic coach at Indiana University Southeast. He frequently lectures and gives presentations on the arts; performing career opportunities; and workshops and clinics in improvisation and world music styles at colleges, high schools, and other music organizations and festivals. Silpayamanant regularly leads sectionals and coachings in schools throughout the greater Louisville metropolitan area and has been the staff sectional coach with the Floyd County Youth Symphony since 2007. He was formerly a string specialist teaching cello classes at Virginia Chance Elementary School and Music Instructor at Gymboree Play & Music.

Born in Udon Thani, Thailand, Silpayamanant started playing the cello at the age of six after his family moved to New Albany. He attended DePauw University School of Music and graduated with a degree in cello performance and studied composition with Dr. David Ott. While at DePauw he was a two time winner of the DePauw Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition and served the last two years as teaching assistant to Eric Edberg. Silpayamanant has attended cello master classes with Janos Starker, Fritz Maag, Eleonore Schoenfeld, Stephen Kates, Janet Anthony, and Owen Carmen and has participated in chamber music master classes with Gary Karr, the Borromeo String Quartet, and the American String Quartet.


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