COLUMBIA — Over a span of two weeks, 15,000 people around the People’s Republic of China got a taste of Columbia. The MU Symphonic Wind Ensemble played six concerts during a tour of China with the help of the U.S.-China Cultural Foundation.
MU is the third university to have been invited to tour China by this foundation, the other two being the University of Kansas and the University of Kentucky. According to Director of MU Bands Tom O’Neal, in addition giving students the chance to see places such as Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai, the foundation also made the trip reasonably affordable for the students, who paid $1,500 each.
Where: Missouri Theater
When: Friday, April 30
Time: 8 p.m.
O’Neal recalled their experience playing in Chengdu for an audience of 8,000 in an outdoor amphitheater setting, which was a different experience for the student musicians who are used to playing stateside. He said they don't get that kind of audience in Columbia.
Alex Franklin is an MU junior and euphonium player.
"They really enjoyed us," Franklin said. "They sat through three hours of rain just to hear us play."
MU Director of Music Robert Shay said he thinks the opportunity to let students experience other cultures was beneficial.
“The best thing about the trip was the opportunity it provided for MU students to connect with the people of China,” Shay said, “This was a great success, we built a lot of strong ties and we are hoping to build on that.”
Caleb Smith, sophomore, trumpet player said he enjoyed meeting Chinese people as "the cultural exchange was the best part."
It wasn’t all work and no play. The students had a chance to explore when they weren’t performing. O’Neal said some of the highlights were seeing the Great Wall and the 2008 Summer Olympics’ “Birds Nest". He remembers being awestruck of all he saw and experienced.
“This is unbelievable, we just saw one of the wonders of the world, Tienemen Square and a Summer Olympics venue all in one day,” O’Neal said.
At the heart of the trip, though, was the music that allowed all of them to be there. In addition to the audience in Chengdu, the band also played a concert in Tiananmen Square.
“We really kept reminding each other that music was the vehicle that allowed us this opportunity,” O’Neal said.
In honor of the ensemble's recent trip, there will be what O’Neal and Shay refer to as a “homecoming concert” in which they will play the songs they performed in China as well as some Chinese music. Shay said that in addition to the band, there will be two featured Chinese vocal soloists that were also on the tour with them.
The concert is at 8 p.m. Friday at the Missouri Theatre. Tickets can be ordered in advance and cost $10.