Go out and listen to something…

April 10, 2010

Wuhan Day 4

Filed under: music, music education, travel, China Tour 6, China — burnett @ 11:52 am

Where to begin.  April 9 started with a visit to an elementary/middle school for blind students in Wuhan.  The kids were divided by class, and there were about 15 kids in each class, 120 or so total.  There was a delay, and the kids started entertaining all of us by singing, first the lowest grades, on up to the highest.  They were completely uninhibited and sang with enormous emotion and enthusiasm.  They were also 100% on pitch.  Eventually two of the older kids stood and sang pop songs with beautiful voices.   I am not going to begin to try to convey the emotional impact of this scene.

There was no translator for this date, so I was on my own with my Mandarin.   It was a very different experience, one that I’ve not had, to play for an audience who depends 70% upon their hearing.  I became very attentive to detail in my playing, and even when making mistakes, I made sure it was very articulate.  I tried to make as many sounds, different shades, gradations of volume, pedaling, etc, that I thought would be attractive to their finely tuned ears.  As a group, they were extremely enthusiastic about the music.  Eventually I invited a young man up who played a lengthy, highly arranged, and seemingly improvisatory arrangement of the great Abing song, Er Quan Ying Yue.  He played very sensitively, and deliberated over the  melody’s iterations in a thoughtful way.  He must spend hour after hour playing the piano.

The performance was concluded with a massive pizza fest.  Apparently these kids had not eaten pizza before, so this issue was corrected by Pappajohn’s Pizza who sponsored the whole occasion, including bringing in the tuned piano and making all of the logistical arrangements.   We had a great time, and I enjoyed speaking for a few moments with many of the kids.  They were just so very happy…listen to Take 5 from the school performance.  One of the teaches grabbed me by the arm and said, “You know, music is the only color they can see”.

We then moved on to a home for senior citizens.  Again, a well tuned piano and beautifully made banner. 

April 8, 2010

Wuhan day 3

Filed under: music education, travel, restaurants, China Tour 6, China — burnett @ 8:38 am

 The food of they day?  Yes, smoked donkey.  I swear, I ate smoked donkey.  It was actually called “Donkey in Red Oil”  and I recommend it.  Jianghan University hosted this particular repast.

I had the pleasure of meeting the leadership, students,  and faculty of Jianghan University, a school of 40,000 students.  The students in the lecture numbered around 350 and were largely music education undergrads.  They were an extremely receptive crowd, and we had a great time.  I was joined by a marvelous erhu player, Wang Meng Laoshi.  The Q & A afterwards was lively and regrettably we were cut short by time constraints.  The lecture was followed by the intro to Jazz Piano class, attended by 15 students or so.  I am finally getting the Mandarin words together for the musical technical terms, and could almost deliver this class in Chinese.  Next time.  We had limited time and focused on one aspect of the method, namely putting together a set of quartal harmonies that may be applied to most pop and jazz standards. 

photo lower: erhu soloist and teacher at Jianghan Univ. Wang Meng

April 7, 2010

Wuhan day 2

Filed under: music, music education, travel, food, China Tour 6, China — burnett @ 6:00 pm

Left: Erhu professor Ren Jing.

Jumping heat:  la de tiao.  Very, very spicy frog legs, a specialty of Wuhan.  I highly recommend it.  It was gourmet cooking at its best and one of a parade of featured entrees last night as guest of Wuhan Music Conservatory.  The lotus root soup was also memorable, another Wuhan specialty.  (In a hurry, so will leave more comment later…)  This marvelous repast was hosted by Professor Jiang, Dean of the Piano Dept. 

The lecture and classes, both at Wuhan Conservatory were both memorable for the gracious reception by the students.  The students really got the whole package with the ‘intro to jazz piano’  master class, and I wish I had more time with them.  Jazz is so foreign, new and also so welcome from these students who prepare so diligently with their majors here.  There is a very large popular music program here, and I need to learn more about it.  The conservatory has 5,000 students.  Below:  raising a glass with Prof. Jiang, faculty, and Consul General Diane Sovereign.

Wuhan Day 1

Filed under: music, music education, travel, China Tour 6, China — burnett @ 11:08 am

 left: Yangtze River at Wuhan

Wuhan, capital of Hubei province is a quaint village of 10 million people in central China, about 900 miles west of Shanghai.  I will tell you that the food here is better than Shanghai cuisine.  I see it as a compromise between Shanghai and Sichuan cuisine.  The chefs use plenty of herbs, so that every meat or vegetable is fragrant, as opposed to the simpler (and blander) Shanghai approach.  Not to say that I haven’t had extraordinary feasts in Shanghai, but the Wuhan specialties are   special indeed. 

The big event of the day was a visit to a new club called Lian.  Lian Ai de lian, or ‘love’.  It was a very cool place and had a small bandstand with an upright piano.  The ensemble this evening included the  manager of the club, Li Bing, on guitar, Yi Zheng on alto saxophone and yours truly at the piano.  We met for the first time about 30 minutes before the downbeat.  I believe this was opening night for the bar, and the wine was complimentary.  We played some standards, and generally had a jolly time of it. 

Prior to that I was guided to a museum that largely celebrates a tomb from 400 B.C.  that has been recently excavated.   The tomb was the size of a palace and included horses and chariots, servants, and and entire orchestra of bronze bells and numerous other instruments: a couple types  sheng, a old version  of the guzheng, but mostly an imposing array of bells and tuned chimes.  We benefitted from a concert on the replica of the bells.  The concert was 30 minutes long, which was about 4 hours too short.  This was some amazing sounds that took awhile to fully ingest.  The big bells have a very complex sound, so that the listener really has to choose which partial or fundamental he is going to listen to.  

 right:  Li Bing, guitar; Yi Zheng, alto sax, BT at the piano

April 3, 2010

Shanghai Conservatory, East China Normal High School

Filed under: Education, music, music education, travel, China Tour 6 — burnett @ 12:02 am

Next stop was the Shanghai Conversatory Prep department.  We were actually met by several jazz students from the upper conservatory, and other undergrad piano students.  I also had the pleasure of meeting   the jazz piano professor at Shanghai Conservatory.   Again very penetrating questions, but largely from faculty rather than students.  There was interest in the divide between white and black culture in the U.S. and how jazz made it’s way through the American cultural stream.  In general, I always feel as if I am of some general utility, since the function of the lecture is to look at the roots of American music in the early 19th century and how the threads of  New  Orleans music were firmly entrenched 100 years before the flowering of the American jazz culture.  I was joined by two erhu players from the school.

The last stop of the day was at the remarkable East China Normal University High School 华东师范大学第二附属中学。About 450 high school students filled the hall.  This is a bi-lingual school, and I presented the lecture in English with no interpreter.  This was by far the most enthusiastic audience and the Q& A would have gone on for days.  I was joined by Kelly, a young erhu player.  I was introduced by one of the students, Pei Li, who spoke eloquently in English to this large assembly.  One is always impressed by the respect, inquisitiveness,  and sincerity that these kids demonstrate.  It never fails to move me deeply while working  with students here in Shanghai.

Photos– upper: Shanghai Conservatory and prep students and faculty.

below:  East China Normal Univ. H.S.  The erhu player, Kelly, is center.  To her right in red is Pei Li who gave the introduction. Far left is our gracious host for the day, Hong Yan Fen.

March 27, 2010

On the Road: China –Shanghai, Dalian, Shenyang, Wuhan

Filed under: music, music education, travel, China Tour 6 — burnett @ 7:37 am

Tomorrow I head out for a three week tour, this time partially funded by a grant under  the U.S. State Department. 

I’m largely on my own for the usual meanderings around Shanghai for a week or so, but USSD (as it will now be called) will host 2 days in Shanghai then a series of events in the other cities.  So far, the events include the “Intro to Jazz Piano Master Class” at Conservatories, Universities and High Schools, the Lecture/ Performance “Parallels in the Histories of Chinese and American Music:  from the Street to the Concert Stage” (still trying to reduce that title to 3 words), performances at jazz clubs, (Hong Se Lian Ren 红色恋人 in Wuhan), community service at a school for the blind and a senior home, various dinners, parties and the usual parade of amazing food. 

On April 11 in Shanghai, the JZ School has scheduled the Master Class, and then the fabulous JZ Club is hosting me with EJ Parker, Chris Trzcinski, Peng Fei, and Alec Haavik for the evening from 10 p.m.

My relationship with the U.S. Consulates goes back to 1972 when I was a student in Vienna.  The Consul General was and still is a family friend, and his wife was terrified that with my life style I could possibly starve to death on their watch.  The result was an open invitation to dinner at their home, which was like an island of paradise in those dark days of Vienna.  Otherwise it was street food (mostly pork fat), Schrammelbrot and Topfengolatschen.  Nothing wrong with that, now that I think about it.

April 8, 2008

the classes at JZ School

Filed under: music education, China Tour 4, China — burnett @ 6:53 pm








The master classes (as they are called)  at JZ School are always fun, especially when we get to the “after class coffee”.  The second ACC was well attended at Cafe Bella by Yin Lei, Judy, Zhai Wen, Emily, and Ben Denton, but we missed Shinae! Yi, Shinae and Mei also attended the first class, and forgive me for not having everybody’s name.  We covered the basics of the now legendary Cool Chord system.  The Cool Chords enable anyone to sound like a genius in about 5 minutes, hence the name.  

January 27, 2008

JZ School Intro to Jazz Piano Class

Filed under: music, music education, China Tour 3, China — burnett @ 7:46 pm


Amy, Jeff, Joyce, Estella, Tom, Luisa, Priscilla, Burnett; below: Amy, Stephanie

This is the gang at yesterdays class at JZ School.  We could not have had more fun, as it was a happy and eager crowd on a snowing and blowing Sunday afternoon.   We covered some simple improvisation, a bit of Rock & Roll piano and concluded with an impromptu performance of Scott Joplin’s “Entertainer”  by Priscilla.  We should do this every Sunday!

January 20, 2008

Master class at JZ School in Shanghai

Filed under: music education, China Tour 3, China — burnett @ 6:26 pm

One of my most joyous occurrences here in Shanghai is the intro to jazz piano class that I host at the JZ School.  Saturday brought the usual mix of locals  and ex-pats, in this case German, Spanish, French & American.  (more…)

April 1, 2007

The JZ School in Shanghai

Filed under: music, music education, China Tour 2, China — burnett @ 6:08 pm

Today marked my first meeting with Lawrence Ku, director of the JZ jazz school. � Lawrence and I share an affiliation with New England Conservatory where he participated in the M.Mus program for Jazz Studies. � It was clear that Lawrence has taken on an enormous task. � Since there is no jazz school in Washington, DC, home of Duke Ellington, I cannot imagine starting one in Shanghai. � The building is terrific, has real style, and the school has an excellent coterie of faculty and staff. (more…)

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