Masayoshi Ishikawa Wins Swenson-Bunn Award for Teaching Excellence

Posted on May 10th, 2017 by

Masayoshi Ishikawa

Gustavus Adolphus College visiting assistant professor of music Masayoshi Ishikawa was named the 2017 recipient of the Swenson-Bunn Award for Teaching Excellence at the College’s annual Honors Day Convocation on Saturday, May 6.

Nominated and selected by students, the Swenson-Bunn Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence honors the memory of two Gustavus students and members of the Student Senate, Greg Swenson and Holly Bunn, who were killed in a car accident in 1989. It has been awarded annually since 1990.

“Although this came as a huge surprise, it is an incredible honor for me to receive this award,” Ishikawa said. “It means the world to me to know that students find my teaching interesting and helpful for their learning.”

Ishikawa, who grew up in Fukushima, Japan, is in his first year as a visiting adjunct professor teaching Aural and Keyboard Skills, Applied Jazz Piano, as well as directing small jazz ensembles at Gustavus. Described by students as “thoughtful,” “supportive,” “philosophical,” “dedicated,” and “kind,” Ishikawa took the time to write his own textbook for his courses, which was sold in the Gustavus Book Mark for $3 because of his desire to keep student costs to a minimum.

“Establishing balance between student-centered teaching and creative activities can be challenging, but in making the textbook I felt I was able to combine that element into my teaching in addition to making meaningful connections with my students,” he said.

Ishikawa is an active performer and composer who has played in music festivals and concerts in Asia, Europe, and North America in addition to his work as a recording musician. In 2013, he premiered the Stevie Wonder Recomposition Project, in which he recomposed several Wonder songs for chamber jazz ensembles and various instruments in honor of one of his musical heroes. His composition, Hotaru (Firefly), won the 2014 Downbeat Student Music Award in the Graduate Original Composition for Small Ensemble. Ishikawa’s multi-movement work, Suite for the Forgotten, premiered in 2015 and is dedicated to residents of his hometown of Fukushima who are living with the risk of radiation exposure after the nuclear disaster following the 2011 tsunami.

At Gustavus, the professor draws on his daily experiences as inspirations for his work, composing short several pieces based on Daily Sabbath, student life on campus, and walks in the Linnaeus Arboretum. In the spirit of the Swenson-Bunn Award for Teaching Excellence, Ishikawa knows that the student experience comes first.

“I spend most of my time practicing and composing in my office so I can be accessible to students when they have questions and need feedback,” he said.

Ishikawa holds masters of music degrees in jazz composition (University of South Florida) and jazz piano performance (University of North Colorado), as well as a doctor of musical arts degree in composition from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

To learn more about the Gustavus Department of Music, visit the departmental website.


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