Friends of the Gamelan, affectionately know as FROG, traces its roots to the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, held in Chicago. One of the many exotic attractions on the Midway Plaisance was the Java Village, complete with a Sundanese gamelan. Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History was founded to preserve, catalog, and exhibit the many cultural treasures from the Exposition, including the gamelan. In the late 1970s, a group began to meet regularly at the Field Museum to play on those very instruments. FROG formed in 1980 as a not-for-profit educational organization with the purpose of purchasing a Javanese gamelan for pedagogy and performance, to continue the work begun at the Field Museum.
Ki Midiyanto, a highly respected gamelan musician and puppeteer (dhalang), assisted FROG in commissioning our bronze gamelan set, Gamelan Sri Sedana, from a gamelan maker in Java. It arrived in Chicago in 2000.
FROG has been privileged to work with many outstanding Javanese gamelan musicians, including Midiyanto, Sumarsam, Harjito, Wakidi Dwidjomartono, Raharja, Ki Purbo Asmara, Joko Sustrino, and, most recently, Heri Purwanto. FROG also enjoys a close relationship with the Indonesian Consulate-Chicago, which often provides dancers for our performances. FROG has performed at many notable venues, including Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park, Chicago World Music Festival at Preston Bradley Hall, and the Field Museum.
Under the current artistic direction of Alex Yoffe, FROG rehearses weekly and gives concerts and workshops throughout the year. Periodically, FROG offers a free session of introductory gamelan classes to anyone who is interested. Classes are generally held on Tuesday evenings prior to our ensemble rehearsals.
Friends of the Gamelan is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, and by individual donors.
Alex Yoffe is a Javanese gamelan musician and teacher. After completing his degree in music composition at the CCPA, he went on to the concentrated study of Central Javanese gamelan, having been awarded a scholarship—fully funded by the Indonesian government—at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts in Surakarta (ISI Surakarta). Yoffe has performed with and taught many gamelans across the US, including Gamelan Laras Tentrem (Boston), Gamelan Kusuma Laras (NYC), Gamelan Sari Raras Irama (Buffalo, NY), as well as at numerous universities and colleges. He has also performed with many groups and renowned musicians in Java, Indonesia.
Board of Directors
Mike Awe, President
Christopher Chung, Vice President & Secretary
Michael McKinley, Treasurer
Every rehearsal and every performance, FROG is committed to providing cultural and musical educational experiences to members and Chicago audiences, while providing a safe space to be creative. Your donation helps us to continue our gamelan community in Chicago.