Bill Scott, music director and conductor of The Symphony at Western Kentucky University, said the moment that stands out for him during a recent China trip was when the orchestra received a fourth curtain call following its first concert at the Beijing campus of North China Electric Power University.
“It was a tremendous amount of work,” said Scott, who began planning for the China trip more than a year ago. “I’m sure the kids appreciated it.”
The Symphony at WKU gave four performances: at the aforementioned North China Electric Power University; Beijing Language and Culture University; Hebei University in Baoding; and at North China Electric Power’s Baoding campus. There were more than 4,000 spectators total at the four venues. Scott said the 55-member WKU orchestra, which included four faculty members also making their first international concert tour, was rewarded with enthusiastic, passionate audiences not found stateside.
“We started with the Chinese national anthem each time and they would cheer after the first two notes,” Scott said.
The group had a four-hour flight from Nashville to Los Angeles, a 15-hour flight from Los Angeles to Korea and a two-hour flight from Korea to China. Coming back, a lengthy layover in Los Angeles allowed them to visit Hollywood and see the sights. The trip was May 12-16.
Scott has made overseas concert trips before to Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, but those were for a South Carolina-based orchestra.
“It was a nice way to celebrate my 10th anniversary (at WKU).” he said.
The students received three hours credit for the trip and will present information about the tour to school and civic groups as part of a Study Abroad experience.
“With WKU’s strong ties to China and partnerships with multiple universities there, it was a natural choice to schedule performances at the campuses of partner universities. This concert tour of China provided an opportunity for students, faculty and alumni to share their love of great music while being immersed in the Chinese culture. No doubt this adventure ignited a passion for world travel in many of these students,” said Stacey Biggs, chief marketing officer for the WKU Division of Public Affairs, in a release.
The performance at Hebei was the first ever in a new auditorium, Stott said. “They were unboxing the chairs when we got there. We were the first to sit in them,” he said.
A tour group of WKU alumni and friends were special guests at the concerts, traveling separately from the orchestra. Those alumni also toured historic and cultural sites.
University business items were also handled on the trip, noted Biggs, who also made the journey to China with WKU President Gary Ransdell and other university officials. Confucius Institute staff members and Ransdell had talks with partner universities in Beijing and Baoding, Biggs said.
Ransdell and other WKU representatives negotiated for financial support from Hanban for two newly approved Confucius Institute classrooms, final approval of the 2 + 2 program with WKU’s College of Education and Beijing Language and Culture University, approval of ongoing support for the WKU iMedia project and approval of support for three positions designed to continue the growth of the Chinese language programs on the campus of WKU, Biggs said.
The 2 + 2 program involves 15 to 20 students who spend two years each in China and at WKU during their studies.
David Lee, dean of the WKU Potter College of Arts & Letters, met with officials to discuss the enhancement of the 2 + 2 program with Hebei University, that is currently only for business students. English was added as another program option. The number of Hebei University students at WKU is slated to increase as early as spring 2014, Biggs said.
The orchestra students visited the Great Wall of China, and at Hebei University, they saw an introduction to traditional Chinese instruments, Chinese dance and martial arts, Biggs said.