Composer and musician Thomas Whitman first studied Indonesian music as a Luce Scholar in Bali in 1986-7. His primary teacher was the Balinese master musician I Madé Gerindem. Whitman subsequently earned earned a Ph.D. in Music from the University of Pennsylvania, and has continued to study Balinese music on numerous research trips to Indonesia as well as with his current teacher in the United States, I Nyoman Suadin. Whitman has taught at Swarthmore College since 1990. There he founded Gamelan Semara Santi, the Philadelphia area’s only Indonesian Gamelan (classical percussion orchestra) in 1997, and he has co-directed it ever since.
In addition to his college-level teaching, Whitman has served as a volunteer music teacher in several elementary schools in underserved communities. He began the Chester Children’s Gamelan Project in 2004 at Chester Community Charter School, where he provided instruction in Balinese Gamelan to elementary school children on a weekly basis. The program subsequently resided for ten years at Stetser Elementary in the Chester Upland School district, and then relocated to Chester Charter School for the Arts for two years. Since the fall of 2018 he has taught Balinese Gamelan two afternoons per week at William D. Kelley School in North Philadelphia. Whitman resigned his tenured position at Swarthmore in 2018 in order to devote more time to composition and to his volunteer work with children, though he remains a part-time faculty member at Swarthmore.