Go out and listen to something…

April 27, 2013

Guizhou University

Filed under: music, music education, travel, China Tour 12, China — burnett @ 3:33 pm

The focus of this trip was the visit to Guizhou University, in Guiyang. Guiyang, located in the far southern mountains of China, sits at 3000 ft above sea level and enjoys cool breezes and very clean air year round.  The university is in a sylvan and mountainous setting.   Professor Jian Feng Wang, Dean of the School of Fine Arts, was my host.  My assistant and companion for the time at the school was the linguistics grad student, Xu Tao.  Xu Tao was a marvelous guide, and a great conversationalist on all subjects from culture, language, international affairs, and human nature.  Aside from getting me from one place to the next, he took me on a guided tour of the nearby medieval village of Qinq Yan in the nearby mountains.

The final concert included a marvelous performance of Chick Corea’s Spain  featuring the wonderful erhu soloist Ren Jie.  She understand this piece beautifully and we put it together in a single rehearsal.

Spain   Ren Jie, erhu; Burnett Thompson, piano

photo:  Guida Professor, Xu Tao, Liu Xuan, Professor Wang Jian Feng, B.T., Ren Jie

April 25, 2013

Guizhou Ethnic University

Filed under: music, music education, travel, China Tour 12, China — burnett @ 6:38 am

Many thanks to Professor Jian Feng Wang for arranging a visit to Guizhou Ethnic University in Guiyang on April 7 and 8, 2013.  The encounter included an impromptu singing and performance session with a crowd of students, and then an official concert.  Certainly the highlight of the concert was an interlude presentation by the students of a folk song in full regalia.  The university is in a beautiful setting in the wetlands bordered by sharply rising mountains on all sides.   Erhu faculty member Chen Jia and I collaborated on  良宵 by Liu Tian Hua刘天华。It is hard to explain the warm welcome I received from both students and faculty and I hope I can spend more time with them in the future.

December 10, 2012

Wuhan: CCNU and Wuhan University: the Concerts

Filed under: music, music education, travel, China Tour 11, China — burnett @ 10:17 am

Back at a favorite spot, Central China Normal University, followed by a concert at Wuhan University.  The students at CCNU were absolutely fabulous, and we had the good fortune of two performances of the same program, first at CCNU, then Wuhan Univ. Listen to some outtakes:

Wang Yingtao, guzheng; Burnett Thompson, Piano临安遗恨 Leave Regrets in Lin An.

Yang Guang, dizi;Burnett Thompson, Piano 牧民新歌  Song from the Countryside

July 13, 2012

Ningbo revisited

Filed under: music, music education, travel, China Tour 10, China — burnett @ 8:58 am


A reprise of the Nov. 2011 Ningbo concert took place on April 6, 2012.  Included in this concert was the debut of Zhang Dawei on double bass.  Dawei, a piano student at the university,  took the jazz class and learned the blues in 3 days, having never even touched the double bass.  With the aid of the irrepressible Tom Smith, director of the jazz program at Ningbo University, the three of us fleshed out the “Butternut Blues”.

Again the remarkable Wang Lei Lei sang two folk songs and gave an unforgettable performance of “Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup”…but in Chinese and French, likely a first for this song.  Wang Jian Qiao and I put together a fresh look at a traditional Chinese piece, Chu Yue Xiao Ge (New Year’s Song) with a visit from the Beatles “Norwegian Wood”。  We were also joined again by Song Wen Yue for “Spain” and “Jiang He Shui”.

Yunnan Folk Song
Folk Song
Darling, Je Vous A’ime Beaucoup Wang Leilei, vocal; Burnett Thompson, piano
Chu Ye Xiao Ge/Norwegian Wood  Wang Qian Bao, erhu; Burnett Thompson, piano
Jiang He Shui Song  Wen Yue, erhu;  Burnett Thompson, piano
Butternut Blues   Tom Smith, trombone; Burnett Thompson, piano; Zhang Dawei, bass

November 29, 2011

2 weeks at Ningbo University

Filed under: music, music education, travel, China Tour 9, China — burnett @ 12:10 am


I met Yu Hui at Shenyang Normal University last year, and after his arrival as Dean of the School of Arts at Ningbo University, he suggested I come to the school and participate in his new jazz program.  Hence   two weeks of teaching, rehearsals, lectures,  and performances, including the “American Jazz Music Week” (美国爵士音乐周).  The Jazz week included 6 performances, including a student concert, a couple of presentations by the remarkable trombonist Professor Tom Smith, my own lecture on Chinese & American music histories, and concluded with a big concert hosted by your truly.  From a personal perspective, this was one of the biggest highlights of 9 tours in China, and I have Yu Hui to thank for this rewarding experience. 

My goal as expressed to Yu Hui was to present the jazz piano course in Mandarin Chinese.  He in turn set up a daily two hour class, followed by two hours of rehearsals every day. I conducted these sessions entirely in Chinese, with the generous assistance of the students who helped me with the technical vocabulary and general pronunciations. 

The highlight of the trip was my Introduction to Jazz Piano Class, which included 12 students.  We met every day for 2 hours.  A close second was the two-hour daily rehearsals with a pair of erhu players and two singers. 

Above:  Yu Hui;  jazz piano class: 张大卫,朱佳,周琳, 周舒怡, 尤鹏玮,聂小涵,温馨,罗洁,,袁金宝,温馨 周余 徐莹莹, B.T.,  not present: 李化阳; Prof. Yang, translator Xin Chen, Prof. Zhong, Tom Smith, translator Ke Jin, B.T.; Concert: Wang Lei Lei, B.T., Song Wen Yue

April 24, 2011

Shanghai: Clean Air

Filed under: Education, music, music education, travel, China Tour 7, China — burnett @ 8:41 pm

Just kidding.  But compared to Wuhan, the air is at least breatheable.  Kicking off the usual sequence of dinners, coffees, hanging out, rehearsals, etc.  You never know whom you will meet in this city, like NY but more international…if that is possible.  Managed to catch Coco Zhao at JZ Club, led the Intro to Jazz Piano at the JZ School.  The photos:  Intro to Jazz Piano, a bunch of Brits at dinner, Coco & Huang Jianyi at JZ, and the ARt Deco Paramount Theater in Shanghai, Byron Wu & friends 

April 22, 2011

Wrapping it up in Wuhan

Filed under: music, music education, restaurants, China Tour 7, China — burnett @ 5:59 pm

The last event of the Wuhan trip was a party at the Renaissance Hotel celebrating their anniversary.  As a guest of the U.S. Consulate, I was treated to some fabulous food and a good bit of entertainment.  Earlier in the day, a couple hours at the university included sharing some of the jazz teaching method with a teacher, Ming Yue,  who understood things very quickly. 

April 20, 2011

Wuhan: 华中师范大学的音乐会

Filed under: music, music education, China Tour 7, China — burnett @ 9:34 pm

I arrived the other day in Wuhan with no particular agenda, but that changed in a New York minute when a concert was planned at Central China Normal University Music School.  I was joined by my old colleague Wang Meng 老师, and a wonderful opera student, Tang Jiu Qi,  who sang Sonnet 66 from the Sonnet Song Cycle. (listen to this remarkable performance here ) The faculty, including Prof. Tian Xiaobao, Prof. Zang, Prof.  Zhang and  others, hosted the most gracious dinner afterwards.  The concert program included a couple of quickly assembled arrangements of a tango and bossa nova for erhu and piano, Er Quan Ying Yue 二泉映月, and new approaches to music of Liu Tianhua and the inevitable Sai Ma 赛马。  

January 31, 2011

President Obama

Filed under: music, music education — burnett @ 8:12 am

      I was starting to feel left out of the current administration, until I was suddenly included in a small dinner party, and subsequently a casual gathering of friends and colleagues which happened to include the President of the Unitied States.  They say that in New York, you have to be there and then maybe something good will happen.  I guess the same is true here in D.C.  You never know when you will be holding the door for Liz Taylor or playing the piano for Mandy Patinkin and Herbie Hancock, or…standing next to the President.  Finally, all of these things have actually happened.

Let me back up a bit.  During the administration of President George W. Bush, I was suddently talking   at great length with him on the subject of public school music education.  To his pleasure, I brought up the matter of the excellent music program in Texas public schools.  And of course there is the issue that half of the military jazz musicians that play in the White House are North Texas Univ. grads.  The chat took place on Jan. 26, 2001, at the home of David Schwartz, the architect for the Texas Rangers baseball stadium.  There were not more than 25 people at the event, which happened to be David’s 50th birthday.  On another occasion, I made a point of hiring a pair of retired military musicians to perform for President Bush.   (Both musicians arrived late for the occasion and gave new meaning to the word “retired”.)

No such conversation took place with President Obama, to my dismay.  Things happen fast in that arena, so my meaningful chat is still in the future.  The subject?  Public school music education.  My theory?  Since you are going to have ’standard of learning’ tests in public schools, please include Foreign Language, Art, and Music.  (At present, we have English, Science, Math, and History.)

April 13, 2010


Filed under: music, music education, travel, China Tour 6 — burnett @ 5:47 pm


Dalian is on the sea in northeast China.  The view from the Xing Hai hotel room is quite spectacular, glimpses of numerous islands off the coast and a coastline marked by a string of small mountains.

The first excursion was to Dalian University of Technology.  The program began with a group of student in yellow costumes serenading us with a memorable theme and variations on Jingle Bells.  The room was a gigantic study hall with desks in front of the chairs, seating about 300 students.  Again, since a component of the lecture is the development of jazz in the U.S., I was aware that these students are generally quite unaware of this art form but many were intrigued by the music.  The audiences are so attentive and respectful in a way that I cannot imagine stateside.  But maybe I’ve not had enough experience in my own country.  The students all had a good grounding in English and I gave the lecture without translator. 

The next day we went to the American International school out in the countryside.  The students are largely Korean, Irish, and a few Americans.  They were very good natured and good fun, and I think they were glad to have a visitor from the outside to break up the day.  This school is near the enormous Intel plant.  We had a delightful lunch afterwards with the band director, Leah, and the CFO, Sue Cheng.

Next stop was Lioaning University.  The hosts were extremly engaging.  The students were applied music students and music ed. students.  The piano was a Bosendorfer concert grand, and we were in an auditorium seating about 400.  I had the pleasure of working with erhu player Dou Xiu Ping, who also joined as at the dinner afterwards.


upper left: D.U.T choir, right: Liaoning faculty  hosts a great meal for M.A. and B.T . Bottom left:  My excellent collaborateur on the erhu. right:  The gang at Dalian Int. School.

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