Halfway to Tokyo, I realized the reason I have been invited here is to be a foreign body. My stated mission is to introduce the practices of teaching artistry to Japanese music students. Though there are many wonderful arts educators and teaching artists here already, they feel they need some testimony from an outlander. I certainly feel like one. I don’t speak any Japanese, and I have never even visited the country before. My workshops will need to be translated, and I know next to nothing about the culture of Japanese music schools.
One thing that often happens to foreign bodies is they get rejected. They do not fit the chemistry of a particular system or culture, and so rightly, they are refused. While that may happen to me and the notion of teaching artistry over the next two weeks, it is also true that the Japanese are known to be unfailingly polite, so I doubt it will take the form of a protest or riot. I may not even know that I am being rejected as it is happening!
Through infection, foreign bodies can also be successful in changing chemistry. While we generally associate infection with sickness, there can also be the more positive connotation of something that is “infectious.” I think that is what I am gunning for in Tokyo and Kobe, but of course the sense of infection and things infectious can go both ways. I’ll try to do my part to communicate the richness of teaching artist practice in the United States, but I also wonder what I might catch!