Friends, teachers, and audience recognize Kusuma for love and talent with music

Written by: 
Tomson Cheang
Ninoy Kusuma plays over four instruments.


With more than four different instruments and music of different genres, multi-instrumentalist Ninoy Kusuma, a senior from Indonesia majoring in music, presented his senior percussion recital with his friends in the McKay Auditorium on Oct. 26.

Dressed in a Batik shirt, a traditional pattern from Indonesia, Kusuma first played “Virginia Tate” in a marimba solo, then he performed Samba on the timpani with Kris Krisanalome and Parker Stockford. With Aniela Santoso’s piano accompany, Kusuma performed music from the black and white movie “Nola.”

Joseph Ruben, a senior from Fiji majoring in information technology, said the first piece “Virginia” “made him dream and took him away.” Impressed by Kusuma’s personal style, Ruben said, “Music is all about styles and Ninoy’s brought his own style. That’s what I like, the originality.”

With dancers on the stage, Kusuma and his friends performed Tahitian music “Maeva,” in which he played the Toere, a kind of traditional Tahitian drums.

After the intermission, the lights turned blue. Kusuma changed from his Polynesian outfit into a suit and shirt and appeared on the stage again playing a solo ballad piece “Available in Blue” on the vibraphone. Then, he and Stockford presented a vibraphone duo, playing a piece named “Driven.” During the performance, Kusuma even used his vibraphone mallets to play the drums.

With his jazz band, Kusuma performed “Samba El Gato,” “Song For Penni,” and “Morning Dance.” The second piece, “Song For Penni,” was written by Jennifer Duerden, a music professor at BYU­­–Hawaii, which was a highlight of the recital as the audience applauded and screamed for Jennifer Duerden, who was also sitting in the audience that night.

“It’s a gift for Sister Duerden,” Kusuma said on the stage during the recital, “While I’m in Hawaii far away from home, Sister and Doctor Duerden are like my mother and father. They’re like my family in Hawaii.”

Jennifer Duerden said she originally wrote the melody for one person only. Kusuma gave parts to all the band made the piece more complex and interesting. “In the jazz world, sometimes we think more of the person who performed it than the one who composed it.”

Darren Duerden, a music professor at BYUH and Kusuma’s percussion teacher, described Kusuma as a “sponge for learning.” He explained, “Ninoy already came with great skills, I’ve shown him new styles, new ways of doing things. He’s just taken it in. Now, he’s on the road to becoming a professional.”

As a piano accompanist for one of Kusuma’s performances, Aniela Santoso said Kusuma had to practice different pieces with different people, which made his preparation for the recital more complex and time-consuming.

“A lot of hours spent just for practicing with different musicians. When you play with a lot of people, like an ensemble, you can’t just play by yourself. Even if it was just for 30 minutes, we had to come together, and play together,” said Santoso, a senior from Indonesia majoring in piano performance.

To his friends, Kusuma said he’s grateful for their support. “There’s so much that they’ve put in for me to be here. [The performance] is something that I can pay off a little bit. I love all of them.”

Ninoy’s background

Originating from Tangerang, a city next to Jakarta in Indonesia, Kusuma said he first started organ lessons when he was four years old while his two older brothers were taking piano lesson at the same place and he wanted to do the same thing. Kusuma then asked his parents to move him to piano class.

At age nine, Kusuma started to play the guitar because his oldest brother was playing it. “It always started from my oldest brother,” Kusuma recalled. “He was really cool. As a little brother, I looked up to him and wanted to be cool like him. I always tried the instruments that he had played.”

In high school, Kusuma and his schoolmates formed a band and won awards in different competitions, Kusuma shared, including the first place in the jazz festival held at the University of Indonesia, one of the biggest jazz event in Indonesia. “We won at least five first places every year,” Kusuma recalled.

Kusuma came to BYUH to study percussion and joined Shaka Steel and Salsa Orchestra and Brass Ensemble. However, compared to the awards he had received during high school, Kusuma hasn’t been actively participating in competitions anymore since becoming a college student, he explained. “I don’t want to compare myself with others. I want to focus more on learning music.”

Kusuma said there are musical instruments at BYUH that he had never seen when he was in Indonesia, including the steel drum and the vibraphone. His goal is to learn about those instruments here and then introduce them to the people in Indonesia.

When asked about what he wants to do after he graduates, Kusuma said he wants to be a performer and a music teacher and create music. “I have a music studio at home. I want to produce music with that."


Date Published: 
Thursday, November 8, 2018
Last Edited: 
Thursday, November 8, 2018