Lewis Peterman in Bali

Professor Lewis Peterman, Longtime Contributor

The Center for World Music owes much to Prof. Lewis Peterman. He was a personal friend of the distinguished ethnomusicologist and CWM founder, Robert Brown. He has been a champion for the CWM for years and the driving force behind some of the most fruitful years of the organization, to date. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Although he has retired from the leadership position of president, he still provides valuable advice and support. He is a CWM hero. He is an important reason children in the San Diego area are singing the stories and playing the music of cultures and traditions that reflect the heartbeat of humanity.

Meet our third and final hero, longtime contributor and donor of time, talent, and treasure, Lewis Peterman.

(1) You have served as an unusually active member of the Center’s Board of Directors for over 30 years. What’s motivated you to be so involved?

I have done so because I believe the Center is a very special organization—one that dares to dream of a harmonious world nurtured through interpersonal cooperation. Born during the 1960s, the inspiration for the creation of the Center by its founders, Samuel Scripps and Robert E. Brown, was the American counter-culture slogan “make love, not war,” which could also be restated as “make music, not noise.” Just as “love” is an innate human universal found in all cultures around the world, so is “music”— both in fact are associated with the best and most noble qualities of human nature (understanding, sharing, caring, intimacy, kindness, happiness, selflessness, value, meaning, healing). Indeed, it’s hard to hate others when dancing to their music. Ultimately, the Center fully recognizes the timeless wisdom of the old proverb, “to understand a man, you’ve got to walk a mile in his shoes, whether they fit or not.”

I have also devoted 30 years of my personal and professional life to the Center because I believe in what it does: namely, it enriches the human experience across the globe by fostering understanding through intercultural sharing via the performing arts, most especially through music. Diversity, quality, and programming—these form the nucleus of what the Center does. For the Center, “diversity” means ALL people on planet earth. Thus the Center strives to bring together people from disparate cultural backgrounds through artistic enlightenment and heightened mutual appreciation. For the Center, “quality” means valuing those special human beings who have attained the highest-level accomplishments in their fields of expertise. Consequently, the Center strives to develop and maintain a deeply devoted and unusually active Board of Directors, a distinguished Artistic Advisory Board, and a cadre of distinguished native and/or native-trained teaching artists. For the Center, “programming” always features both diversity and quality, whether through its in-depth workshop encounters abroad or through its educational school and public events here in America.

Over the past 30 years, I have gained a deep personal appreciation for the 50-year-old dream of the Center by serving in many leadership capacities: executive director, director of programs abroad, director of development, universities liaison, teaching artist, secretary, vice president, president, and now as the immediate past president.

(2) You have served as president the past 10 years. What have been some of the most exciting things the Center has done during this period?

Under my leadership as president, the Center has hosted numerous distinguished teaching artists from aboard: Africa (Guinea, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, & Zimbabwe), Europe (Finland, Ireland, & the Balkans), Asia (India & Indonesia), Latin America (Mexico & Peru), and the Caribbean (Trinidad & the Cayman Islands). In addition, the Center has produced intensive two-week hands-on performing arts (traditional music, dance, and puppetry) workshops abroad in Asia (Bali & China), Africa (Ghana), and Latin America (Peru & Mexico).

At its “Flower Mountain” two-acre retreat in Bali, the CWM has hosted groups of students of the performing arts from UCLA, the California Institute of the Arts, Southern Methodist University, Gettysburg College, St. Mary’s College, Warren Wilson College, the National University of Singapore, and San Diego State University. Also participating in Center-sponsored events at Flower Mountain were a group of K-12 classroom teachers from the CWM’s World Music in the Schools program in San Diego, a group of K-12 classroom teachers from Seattle, a group of Zimbabwean mbira players from New Zealand and Japan, and an undergraduate drama group from Hartwick College in upstate New York.

One year in particular (2012), the Center sponsored 70+ concerts, reached 10,000 K-12 San Diego students through its World Music in the Schools program (with 30 teaching artists and 20 ensembles-in-residence), produced a 17-day Zimbabwe Music and Dance Celebration, produced the 2nd Annual San Diego Indonesian Gamelan Festival, produced and hosted a College Music Society world music workshop for American university music professors, organized a 10-city national Indian Odissi Dance tour, and continued offering its local workshops (son jarocho, Balinese gamelan, Odissi dance) and its study abroad workshops in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

(3) In what ways have you seen the Center contribute to San Diego?

Since its move from the Bay Area in 1980, the Center has contributed immensely to the enrichment of the cultural and educational life in San Diego in many ways. The Center implements its dream of harmonious interpersonal cooperation and of the development of the best and most noble qualities of human nature by fostering understanding through intercultural sharing in San Diego via the world’s performing arts. To most deeply enrich the arts environment in San Diego via extended residencies, the Center has hosted many master teaching artists and ensembles of traditional performing arts from abroad: from India, Bali, Java, Sumatra, Iran, the Philippines, China, Japan, Korea, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Peru, Mexico, Brazil, Cuba, Spain, Finland, Ireland, and the Balkans. In addition, the Center has provided rich opportunities for local teaching artists and local performing ensembles, has provided support for local universities and community colleges, has developed innovative cultural tourism programs abroad for San Diegans (in Asia, Africa, and Latin America), has received federal and state grants to support San Diego performing arts programs (i.e., the National Endowment for the Arts & the California Arts Council), and has developed a unique World Music in the Schools program which promotes awareness, skills, and knowledge of the rich performing arts traditions of the world through weekly hands-on classes and periodic assemblies in K–12 San Diego schools.

Thank you, Lewis Peterman.

Join Prof. Lewis Peterman and support programs for San Diego children in most danger of losing their access to cross-cultural music education.