Tuesday, June 20, 2006

NHS student among six chosen to travel to China

By FRANK PHILLIPS / frankphi@hotmail.com
Frank Phillips photos

Top: John Huber was one of six Indiana State University students chosen to travel to China and study at a music conservatory in Shenyang this year. He is holding a garment he purchased in China. On the bed are souvenirs he brought back to the United States.

Center: John holds his Chinese visa.

Bottom: Each student received a graduation certificate when they completed the course at Shenyang.

John Huber was one of six Indiana State Dept. of Music students chosen to study this summer at the Shenyang, China, Conservatory of Music. Dr. Todd Sullivan and Dr. Timothy Crain led the overseas excursion. The group left on May 9 and were gone 13 days.
For the past three years, ISU faculty members have taken students to China for this purpose.
After the 14-hour trip from California to China, John and his friends saw evidence Asian culture is welcoming the Western world.
The group spent 10 days studying at the conservatory and two days site-seeing at Dalian, China, a resort area on the Yellow Sea, about a four-hour drive from Shenyang.
A school is being built at Dalian on a 2- to 3-acre site that will operate along with the conservatory at Shenyang.
The conservatory students spend at least eight hours each day practicing, John said. They don't take general education classes that would be found at an American university.
John photographed many buildings that seemed to contrast the stark, utilitarian Soviet influence with the more attractive, flowing lines of Western architecture.
China has also managed to incorporate the country's love of bright colors with the 21st century needs. Highway ramps are lined with ribbons of colored lights to show drivers how to exit safely at night. At least one building's sign is gold. A bridge is outlined at night with a rainbow of ribbon lights.
In classes, the ISU students who are talented and trained in a variety of musical instruments and voice, learned about Chinese instruments.
"There are thousands of them," developed over China's 8,000-year history, John said. The conservatory recently began a wind band program.
The conservatory was started during World War II to train musicians to play for Chinese soldiers.
The ISU students learned to sing Chinese songs. They learned "Red Lamp," which is part of the repertoire of the Beijing Opera.
“Of all the songs I learned, I thought it was the most interesting since it was anti-Japanese," John said.
They also learned mountain and spiritual songs.
Listening to John's description of the trip indicates how China is different from what little has been seen in American media in decades past.
Perhaps the most emotion-stirring photo in this reporter's lifetime to come from China was that gripping photo of a young man challenging a tank to stop its progress at Tiannemen Square.
The Chinese people's demands for change have been heard, at least in part.
The four trips from ISU to Shenyang Conservatory of Music are one indication. The fact that Chinese residents have gained permission of their government to own and drive automobiles in the past two years, is another.
But signs of the old days are everywhere, from officers dressed in military-type uniforms everywhere, to the Chinese people's wariness of cameras. Although John was able to take some photos of the backs of men wearing uniforms, the practice was largely forbidden.
Imagine a nation filled with 18-year-olds who have only gotten their drivers’ licenses two years ago. That is one tension a passenger or drive faces when they wander onto Chinese streets and highways.
"Rush hour is all the time since they've been allowed to use cars," John said.
He related one incident when their taxi was stopped by a police officer.
Not only was the driver ticketed, but also the officer was very emotional and very vocal, apparently scolding the driver for his infraction.
When the officer left, the driver turned to his passengers and laughed.
Petro China operates all the gasoline stations to feed China's thirst for gasoline.
Twentieth century Chinese life is also seen in that the president of the conservatory is not the head official. There is a Communist commissar always present "in case something goes wrong," John said.
Time in class was spent listening to lectures and instruction that had to be translated by Lily, a Chinese foreign affairs representative, who accompanied the group wherever a translator might be needed.
Lily became quick friends with the group.
John was surprised with a birthday cake one evening. During the festivities, Lily painted John's face with part of the whipped cream frosting.
Another contrast between the modern China and the way China has been portrayed is in the use of space. During the trip, the ISU group stopped at least at one park. While we remember being told the Chinese are so numerous they could march over Western countries, China has dedicated large spaces for parks. John wasn't sure of the exact dimensions but he said the park he visited was easily "a hundred times" bigger than Forest Park in Brazil.
Another way modern China parts ways with traditional Communist thought is religion.
Although Christian worship is not encouraged, religion is recognized as a part of the Chinese culture through the millennia.
The Chinese people are being exposed to shopping, not unlike that in America. A mall has been built at Dalian, China, 10 floors high that would be many times the size of the famous Mall of America in Minnesota, John estimated.
On the last night of their visit, the ISU students gave gifts from Indiana to their hosts.
John gave orchestrated transcripts of band marches by Fred Jewell that are part of the Brazil Concert Band collection.
Professor You, a composition professor, opened his package and found the “New Friendship March,” by Jewell, which seemed to sum up how the ISU students felt about their hosts — and new friends — at the Shenyang Conservatory of Music.
Now a part of Indiana has taken root in the lives of at least a few Chinese music-lovers.