Brass, Jazz and China; A Happening Spring Break

Crescendo issue: April 2014
The relationship between Interlochen and China continues to grow and foster outstanding new partnerships.

The most recent example of that partnership occurred over Interlochen's two-week Spring Break, when a group of jazz and brass students made the trek to China in an effort to work with fellow musical artists and share the art of jazz and brass ensembles. China has a growing Orchestral tradition and many of the finest orchestral artists today are Chinese. Jazz, however, is something that is a bit less known on the Chinese mainland.

Despite the fact that jazz is not as widespread in China, there is strong interest in this decidedly American art. The Interlochen students and faculty were met with eager anticipation and participated in some of the most enjoyable jam sessions they had ever experienced.

"The reaction of the audiences to jazz was remarkable," says Interlochen Jazz instructor Bill Sears. "Especially in Shanghai, where many students were in attendance, the enthusiastic response was an inspiration for the Interlochen student quintet. My sense is the Chinese have had little exposure to jazz and hearing the outstanding performance of the Interlochen students exposed them to the possibilities and joys of improvisation."

The students and faculty performed in front of casual audiences of Chinese students, as well as more formal audiences. They also had ample opportunity to mix and mingle with their Chinese counterparts and explore the culture as well.

"The highlight of the trip for me was being able to play with students from both the Beijing Middle School and the Shanghai Conservatory," says Interlochen student Kaci Cummings. "It was mesmerizing to see that music was able to connect all of us even though there was a strong language barrier. Connecting the Interlochen motto to this trip was extraordinary and really opened my eyes to the impact Interlochen has around the world."

"Getting to experience an entirely different culture, and really being able to connect with people who live so differently than we do in the United States was both fascinating and amazing," said Henry Solomon, another student who took part in the trip. "The fact that we were able to communicate with people on the other side of the world through music made me really happy."

The trip itself came about as a result of the larger relationship, established in 2011, wherein arts students from the Shanghai Conservatory would journey to Interlochen for a time of study and sharing, followed by a trip of Interlochen students to China for the same purpose. This most recent trip marked the Interlochen side of that coin. Soon, the Interlochen campus will once again welcome arts students from China. All of this is part of the larger goal that seeks to ensure that Interlochen is an arts force across the oceans, as well as between the lakes.

"Interlochen has students, alumni, parents and friends the world over," says Interlochen Center for the Arts President Jeffrey Kimpton. "The recent trip to China is a regular part of our ongoing efforts to unite this international community, provide a great educational and cultural experience for our students, and remind everyone of the power of Interlochen. We could not be happier with the results."