United Through Music
UW-Stout choral and jazz students receive grant for music trip to China
UW-Stout hopes to start a new music tradition, beginning with an upcoming 10-day trip to China.
Chamber Choir Director Jerry Hui and Band Director Aaron Durst are taking both choir and band students to three cities in China – Yinchuan, Guilin, and Hangzhou – from May 11 to May 21.
“(The students have) been on short trips for two, three days in Wisconsin … but I’m really hoping this will be a new Stout music tradition,” Hui said. “Every so often, we’ll get out of the country.”
“What I really hope is that the students will get a true sense of what the world is like.” – Jerry Hui, UW-Stout choral director
Thanks to a $50,000 grant identified through the Office of International Education, part of the trip will be paid for by the U.S. State Department. Hui and Durst found out in February 2015 that they had about a week to put together some materials to meet the grant deadline. They decided to take the leap for the students, who include 12 from the chamber choir and 17 from the jazz band.
The grant stipulates the group needs to share music that displays and represents American culture with cities that don’t have much contact with the United States, Hui said. A full day-to-day itinerary was put together for the trip, and each concert will include four sections. The choir will start by singing historical hymns and folk songs. Next, the band will perform early music along with classic jazz numbers. The choir will follow with spiritual numbers and pop songs. Finally, the band will close with a contemporary set.
All of the performances will be in English, but Hui will introduce the music. A native of Hong Kong, he speaks Cantonese and Mandarin. The program handouts will also have translations so people can follow along.
“They’re probably going to be very excited overall,” Hui said of Chinese audience members. China is typically very welcoming to foreigners, and the Chinese are especially fond of the performing arts, he said.
For many of the students, this will be their first trip out of the country. For others, this will be their first time flying. There will be some challenges with jet lag and time adjustments, which is why Hui said he is encouraging the students to “live in China” as soon as they get on the plane. Despite the obstacles that come with traveling to a different country, the students are very excited to see a place so different from what they know, he said.
“What I really hope is that the students will get a true sense of what the world is like,” Hui said. “It’s true a lot of times until someone gets to travel outside of their comfort zone where they’re surrounded by nothing they’re familiar with … you get a sense of what’s out there.”
Though it will be a busy trip, Hui said he hopes the students will find it rewarding and educational. The trip will be treated as a study abroad experience. The students were asked to do some research about the cities they’d be visiting as well as about Chinese music. There is also an option to take an additional class that goes deeper into comparing American and Chinese music in which students journal about what they’re experiencing and learning, he said.
“You make friends and see so much,” Hui said. “You can get so much deeper into the music because you keep doing it over and over again.”
This trip will open doors, added Hui, who hopes partnerships will be built and students will have more chances for similar opportunities in the future.