During the summer, a select group of 20 students and faculty members traveled across the globe to attend music master classes and perform in China. The trip was the second stage in WCU’s partnership with Guizhou University in the Guyang province of China. The first stage of the relationship took place last fall when Guizhou University sent a group of musicians and dancers to West Chester. During the visit, faculty members discussed sending students and teachers to China as part of the relationship.
The recent trip was part of the global initiative program developed and encouraged by West Chester University’s President Madeleine Wing Adler. Fifteen students and five faculty members were invited to spend two and a half weeks in China to hone their musical skills. The group spent a few days in Beijing and then traveled to Guyang.
Dr. Ovidiu Marinescu, conductor of the WCU symphony orchestra and renowned cellist, said that China was a place that defied description in a single phrase. He said that their Chinese hosts were hospitable, friendly and seemed to have a great respect for knowledge, even in music. Dr. Marinescu also taught cello master classes during the visit. Professor Silvia Ahramjian, conductor of the WCU chamber orchestra and violin teacher said, “I heard some wonderfully prepared and eager students during the 10 days of master classes.”
In addition to participating in master classes, students also had the opportunity to play alongside their Chinese counterparts. “Their response to our performances made me feel like a rock star,” Ahramjian said. She added that working with students and talking with faculty through translators was the most meaningful aspect of the trip. “The best part was the music and collaborating with students,” said Ayree Koh, a violin performance major.
Besides performing a Mendelssohn octet and Barber’s Adagio, students also performed a Chinese traditional piece. Jeremy Zimmerman, a dual major in cello performance and music education, said that the highlight of the trip for him was playing the Chinese folk song in concert.
During the week, students participated in master classes and rehearsals from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The weekends were reserved for excursions throughout the Chinese province.
The students and professors all agreed that the food was incomparable to Chinese takeout in the United States. The cuisine was lean and natural, and every meal had about 15 different dishes served on a rotating dish. The group rarely ate the same dish twice in a week. “The hospitality was great,” said Meghan Hoefert, a cello performance major. “We asked for coffee and we got coffee.” Koh agreed that their hosts were very courteous.
Despite a language barrier, many friendships were formed between Chinese and American students. Although a minority of students spoke English, about 10 translators were available for both students and faculty members. “I felt lazy because a lot of the students knew English and I feel like they learn a lot more than we do. We were spoiled because we had translators,” said Jemma Ritto, a music education major and violinist. Ritto added that China did not seem as ethnically diverse as the United States. Zimmerman agreed that the country seemed somewhat mono-racial.
Nevertheless, the women in the group said that the Chinese seemed to appreciate the American idea of beauty, and sometimes the Chinese men would stare and follow them through the city.
Guizhou University plans to have visual arts students and professors visit West Chester in the near future as part of the continuing relationship between the two universities.