Robert Garfias, anthropology professor and world renowned ethnomusicologist, is being recognized for his lifelong contributions to the study of musicians and their musical traditions. Ethnomusicological Encounters with Music and Musicians, a book of essays compiled in Garfias’ honor, will be officially launched at a special book-signing event at the Society for Ethnomusicology annual meeting November 17-20 in Philadelphia.

Garfias is credited with establishing the University of Washington’s ethnomusicology program in 1962. Throughout his career, he has conducted field research in more than a dozen areas of the world, including Japan, Korea, Okinawa, the Philippines, Mexico, Romania, Turkey, Mozambique, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Burma, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Zimbabwe, mastering the languages of many of these places. His vast collection of documentary films and sound recordings (both field and studio recordings of visiting artists and others who visited the Seattle area) can be found in the University of Washington Ethnomusicology Archives.

In 1986, Garfias was appointed by then President Ronald Reagan to the National Council on the Arts. For ten years, the professor served as an advisor to Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton while advising policy for the National Endowment for the Arts. Also credited to his name are former positions as past president of the Society for Ethnomusicology, vice provost of the University of Washington, and dean of the School of Arts at UC Irvine. 

In 2005, he was presented with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon distinction, Japan’s highest government honor bestowed upon a non-Japanese citizen. The honor recognized his contributions to promoting traditional Japanese culture and cultural exchanges between Japan and the United States.


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