Beijing and London Concerts – The Home Stretch

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It is truly remarkable that in every city we’ve visited, we have not failed to be greeted by an enthusiastic and appreciative audience.  In some cities, the audience has been families and children.  In some cities, the audience has been mostly lovers of classical music and the wind band in general.  But one thing they have all had in common: every audience has been warm, welcoming, and appreciative.  We couldn’t really ask for anything more than that.

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Our performance in Beijing was held at the People’s Liberation Army Band Concert Hall, which was a beautiful facility.  A unique aspect of this concert was that we performed a piece by a local Chinese composer, guest conducted by Sergeant Zhang, the commander of the PLA Band.

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It was a special experience to work with a local conductor (and also composer), and was also unique in that our rehearsal was aided by the assistance of Joseph Cheung (pictured left), our Chinese tour coordinator, to serve as a translator for Sergeant Zhang.

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Some unique percussion instruments, including Chinese Drums, were utilized for this piece, which was titled “Ambush,” and based on Chinese folklore.

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Special thanks to our Chinese hosts, and especially Joseph Cheung–our fearless guide–for helping to make our performance in China a great experience for us!

A couple of days later, we hopped seven time zones and landed in the British Isles after an eleven-hour flight. Fortunately, we had at least one night to recover from jet lag before we would perform the grand finale of our tour at beautiful Cadogan Hall in the London borough of Chelsea.

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Cadogan Hall is a historic Christian Scientist church that was converted into a concert hall some time ago, and now plays host to both London-based and traveling professional groups of every kind. It was not only a beautiful hall in looks, but also in sound. A terrific venue to close out our three weeks of performances.

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Even though performing the same program night after night over the course of nine concerts may seem repetitive, there always seems to be a couple of new twists that keep the music fresh, exciting, and fun to perform. One such example is the phenomenal performances of the Ticheli Clarinet Concerto that we have become accustomed to by Professor Nathan Williams. Every time he performs the piece, it seems as if he is able to draw even more musical energy from his performance, and our London concert was no exception.

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That we would be privileged to perform in a hall that looks and sounds so wonderful for our final show was truly a special treat, and we’re incredibly grateful to Ms. Lisa Peacock, our local concert coordinator, for all her efforts to make our performance a special one.

We’ve been fortunate to perform (quite literally) around the world now, but the final notes of each concert have been the same. So, we’ll close this series of blog entires on our concert performances with the same final notes that each of our wonderful audiences has heard as we look forward to returning home a few days from now.

A Dean’s Perspective

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Dr. Doug Dempster, Dean of the College of Fine Arts at UT, joined us on the tour for a couple of recent stops (Taipei through Shenzhen).  Over the course of his time with us, he journaled quite extensively on the activities of the Wind Ensemble, and wrote to share his perspective on the tour as a  keen observer and wonderful supporter.  We are grateful to Dean Dempster for joining us, and for all of his support in helping to make this tour possible!


I’m guest blogging in honor of the students and faculty who are probably too worn out from the last week of travel and performances to blog much themselves.

And, I want to thank all of them—musicians, faculty members Jerry Junkin and Nathan Williams, guest itinerant composers Frank Ticheli and John Mackey (and his wife Abby), “team” doctor John Morehead (on the faculty at UT Health Science Center) and “team” nurse, Alex from Brazil, and all the graduate student musician wranglers—I want to thank all you for a most exhausting, exhilarating, and unforgettable adventure in music diplomacy. Thanks for letting the dean tag along.

I joined the tour in Taipei for a performance at Soochow University that was jointly sponsored by the university and the China Foundation for the Promotion of Education and Culture on which I serve as a board member. The Foundation hosted a preconcert banquet that included a most generous welcome by chairman of the board, Dr. Sun Chen, and a brief lesson on the history of the China Foundation. (It was founded by an act of presidents Teddy Roosevelt and later Calvin Coolidge to “remit” for educational purposes financial reparations China was obligated to pay to the European powers after the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. An amazing history. (Google it!) We also were welcomed by the president of Soochow University, Dr. Pan Wei-Ta.

In Soochow, the hall was relatively small (700 seats?), but nearly new with a super lively acoustic. I was sitting several rows back in the orchestra seats and I’m quite sure I felt a breeze coming off the stage during the climatic moments of the raucous third movement of Mackey’s brilliant Wine Dark Sea.

It was the first of four, stunning performances I got to hear by the WE over the week, all of them peaking in a virtuoso solo of Frank Ticheli’s clarinet concerto by professor Nathan Williams. This piece is really a beautiful, sophisticated homage to American classical music and composers Gershwin, Copland, and Bernstein. Ticheli, Williams, and the Wind Ensemble under Professor Junkin took listeners through wildly syncopated, exuberant passages as well as an incredible Copland-esque, soulful lament for the American spirit that made for a perfect piece of cultural diplomacy in music. You really want to hear Nathan Williams perform this piece if you get the chance!

Each hall and every audience over the week was very different from the others, but the audiences were uniformly appreciative—each in its own, distinctive way. The Soochow audience had the best showing of UT alumni who turned out in Burnt-Orange for the concert. They got treated to an arrangement of the Eyes of Texas for an encore and they returned the favor by throwing their horns up.

Two days later, the WE played in Tsuen Wan Town Hall Auditorium, one of the many satellite centers that make up greater Hong Kong, one of the most densely populated patches of the globe. That was a vast auditorium that could handily accommodate 1,500 so the several hundred who attended looked not very densely populated. This seemed to me one of the more sophisticated audiences the WE played for during the week: more adult; seemingly more familiar with concert etiquette; appreciative and generous with their applause.

Professor Junkin put together an ambitious concert program of only four pieces. The Ticheli finished off the first half, which began with two shorter compositions by UT composers Dan Welcher and Donald Grantham. Spumante by Welcher is a terrific, energetic concert overture that immediately grabs the attention of an uncertain audience. Originally commissioned by the Boston Pops, it’s characteristically Welcher in its accessible, light-hearted surface that grows out of an erudite compositional tribute to a neoclassical tradition in American classical music. The Grantham piece, J’ai été au bal takes Cajun music and New Orleans band traditions as its pretext. It’s also a fun, lively and beautifully orchestrated piece of music that has got to be fun to play for a concert band like the Wind Ensemble—an important consideration in a program that will be rehearsed and performed dozens of times over the three-week tour.

Both these pieces, as well at the Ticheli and the John Mackey piece, provided a short-shelf of American, contemporary concert band music, which makes a great premise for a concert tour of Asia. What may be more impressive, though perhaps unnoticed by much of the audience, is that this is all “new music” in the parlance of contemporary classical music: all four compositions were written in the last 15 years. So, I was impressed at how ambitious a program Professor Junkin put together on tour when many audiences would have very likely been content with an all-John Phillip Sousa program. An ambitious, sophisticated, contemporary, but to my ear thoroughly accessible and entertaining program. And to be fair, the abundant encores were heavy on crowd-pleasing, familiar tunes, including Sousa!

It’s worth mentioning what a long day any one concert date entails for the band. The entire company is over 70 strong. All need to be transported by bus, or train, or ferry. A large variety of instruments need to be shipped by truck or scavenged from the local musical countryside. (The program repertoire calls for harp, piano, celeste, double bass, bass clarinets, contra bassoons, and a huge variety of percussion instruments from tympani to a vibraphone. Too much to travel with and often in short supply in the local communities. Another ambitious aspect of the program.) Traveling in the environs of Hong Kong often—usually?—means traveling through passport controls, which requires everyone and everything to be unloaded from buses for scrutiny by mirthless passport control agents in dour, bewildering terminals. Every new concert hall is also an adventure to be sorted out. Every host organization has an impresario who has his or her own inspired ideas about how the concert program should unfold. Everyone needs to be fed—sooner or later.

That means the whole army is on the move often early in the morning for an evening concert. This army doesn’t move in rank and file, but in a clattering, flapping, rolling assortment of instrument cases, garment bags, dress shoes, boxes, brief cases, and smart phones. Every rallying point—which in Hong Kong always seemed to be in some sort of shopping mall (to be fair, every public space in Hong Kong seems to be a shopping mall)—begins with the admonition from one of the graduate musician wranglers to “put your hand on your passport!” (An army may travel on its stomach, but it doesn’t go anywhere in Asia without a passport.) Concert days often ended back at a hotel close to midnight. Long days.

One concert on Macau required a bus to a ferry, then the hour-long ferry to Macau, then another bus to the concert hall, all followed by several hours of rehearsals, tech set up, sorting out instruments and concert dress, official greetings and introductions, finding enough Egg McMuffins to feed 70, and then a 2-hour concert, followed by—for some of us—a 10-course traditional Cantonese banquet, then all the buses and ferries in reverse—with an added cadenza of a half-mile walk from the ferry back to the hotel! A great chance for me to window shop for those Gucii loafers I’ve never wanted.

A very long day. Followed by an even longer, extraordinary day crossing into China proper to the city of Shenzhen. But let me say a few things about Macau first.

The concert on Macau was an amazing experience. The audience was a healthy size and distinctly respectful. They were very orderly entering the auditorium and quiet during the performance and intermission. They never clapped between movements, and in fact, would clap at the end of a piece only when cued by those of us who knew the program. But when cued, they were exuberant clappers who called for many encores from the WE. The Stars and Stripes encore got them clapping with abandon!) But what was truly astonishing was the concert hall, which provides something of an insight into contemporary China.

Macau is it’s own Special Administrative Region of the PRC, like Hong Kong. It was a Portuguese colony as recently as 1999. You can still see Portuguese in the signage around Macau. It will revert entirely to China in time. And of course, it’s famous for its casino-based economy. Like Hong Kong, it’s thriving, enjoying the gigantic growth of the Chinese economy that spills generously into these free economic zones. Everywhere in Macau one sees high-rise apartment blocks, twenty, thirty or more stories tall, sometimes spindly towers balanced on pin-point lots, often in groves of dozens. It was reassuring to hear that Hong Kong and Macau are not in a seismically active zone. One can only imagine how these tooth-pick towers manage in a typhoon.

The concert hall where the WE performed is owned by the University of Macau, which currently serves 8,000 students on a small campus in old Macao. Five years ago, we were told, the university decided it had outgrown the old campus and needed to build a new campus on the outskirts of town. The land and capital investment were provided by China. In fact, the campus was located outside the actual boundaries of Macau-proper. The WE got to perform in this brand new concert hall on this brand new campus. In fact, we were told, this was the first public concert in that lovely hall.

This new university campus had been only five years between its inception to the day of our visit and what we found there was a sprawling, “finished” campus generously sited on a huge piece of property worthy of any public university in Texas. (Think more like Texas Tech and less like an urban campus.) I counted 20 or more huge buildings, each massive and several stories high or higher. What seemed to be dormitory blocks. Broad boulevards and pedestrian walk ways. All new landscaping that looked recently planted. The entire area was built on fill to raise the grade ten feet above typhoon flood levels. A mile-long tunnel had been dug under the sea just to reach the campus. The stately concert hall was attached to what looked like a large guest hotel and convention center. Altogether, I’d guess the campus facilities were sufficient to accommodate a university of 25,000 students, faculty and staff. Maybe more. And now here was the strangest thing, the entire campus seemed on the day we were there—admittedly a weekend—still largely unoccupied: no students in evidence; only a few people moved in and out of a vast administrative building; no parking lots full of cars; in fact few cars to be seen anywhere; there was no furniture or finishes in the buildings I looked into. Though the auditorium had beautiful wooden finishes and comfortable seating that made for a lively acoustic, the hall had no bathrooms back stage, no furniture and no water fountains in the lobby. The stage house and lobby had the vast scale of Bass Hall, something worthy of grand opera, though the auditorium had the design and dimensions of a mid-sized concert hall. The beautifully grand, glass entry doors to the hall were propped open with sand bags. The building was unfinished in many details. I saw workman demolishing a section of the otherwise finished, but empty conference center.

The dean of students told me that the entire program was scheduled to move from the old campus to the new over just the next few months. 8,000 students, hundreds of faculty and staff, all moving in a few months! It was as if an entire vast campus was built, relatively speaking, overnight, finished—more or less—so that the entire program and operation could migrate from the old to the new in a blink.

Whatever the mixed quality of results, the scale and speed of development is staggering. The financial, political and institutional resolve to accomplish so much so quickly is sobering. We naturally take comfort in the mature quality and refinement of American universities, our music schools, and venerable campuses, which are renowned for being the best in the world. But one has to wonder if American “exceptionalism” isn’t the sort of pride that might precede a decline. I’d recommend reading Harvard business professor Clayton Christenson on “disruptive innovation” in The Innovator’s Dilemma or Jared Diamond on the fates of dominant civilizations in any one of his several books.

Sunday in Shenzhen, China was without question the most amazing day I spent with the Wind Ensemble. Shenzhen is a “Special Economic Zone” just north of Hong Kong and is a hugely successful center of high-tech manufacturing with a population of over 10 million. Foxconn, the Taiwanese company that manufactures iPhones is famously—or notoriously, depending on your outlook—a major employer in Shenzhen. Some of you will be aware of the controversies that swirl around labor practices in Shenzhen that have been exposed, in part, by the American monologist Mike Daisey who himself became notorious for the fabrications in his faux-journalistic performance piece “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steven Jobs.” Daisey performed that piece in McCullough Theatre just over a year ago even as Daisey and Ira Glass were having their famous blow up on This American Life. (Also worth googling: Daisey clearly fabricated his “facts” for theatrical effect: he lied to make an entertaining point. But some of his “points” have been vindicated by more reliable journalism. This is a great pretext for wondering about the ethics of fabrication and truth-telling in the arts.)

The trip to Shenzhen began with the routines of rallying the troops and moving north on two buses, climbing up and out of the high-rise forests of Hong Kong, unloading and loading through two border control stations. We were blessed by yet another day of improbably glorious, clear weather. Arriving at Xixiang Hall at the center of Shenzhen, we were greeted at the steps to the hall by two rows of orderly school children in plaid uniform shorts and skirts, chanting a welcome to us and practicing their English: “Ello! Hailo!” And some Longhorns practicing a little Mandarin: “Niihao! Kneehow!” Totally charming State Department-worth news reel! The hall itself was draped with a gigantic banner blending images of the American and Chinese flags and lot of Chinese characters, but also this in English, presumably for our benefit: “Cultural Exchange Activity” and “The Concert of Orchestra.” Inside, the entire back of the stage had a similar banner that said “The Sound of Orchestra Over the Pacific.”

The hall was already a swirl of activity when we got inside, with clutches of primary and secondary-aged students in various uniforms milling around with instrument cases. The stage was already fully set with a vast array of chairs, stands, and unfamiliar percussion equipment. And no harp! Camera and sound crews were setting up all over the hall. One crew was assembling a giant camera boom for flying a video camera out of the orchestra pit over the heads of the band.

To the casual observer—the dean, in this case—this looks like sheer chaos. But invariably on these occasions, order emerges out of the chaos. Instrument cases, garment bags, stray shoes, boxes and other equipment would be deposited in every corner of the wings and back stage. The student musicians would start assembling at their “desks” on stage, some warming up back stage or in the hall. Graduate assistants would be scurrying back and forth, gently—to my eye anyway, “gently”—herding, problem solving, improvising solutions. Somewhere I’d always see Professor Nathan Williams calmly encouraging one group of students or another. Dr. John Morehead consulting on health issues. And always at the center of the hurricane, calmly making his way around the stage, fielding questions, handing out tickets, making sure everyone was fed, negotiating with hosts and handlers, improvising, never, ever raising his voice—well placed, soft-spoken sarcasm seems to work far better for him—the unflappable Professor Jerry Junkin. At one point—when he was down two key musicians, one felled by GI distress due to dubious street food and another by a lost passport—I asked him what his breaking point might be on crisis control. His answer was to put his focus on the quality of the experience for the students: the tour would be a success for those students come what may. A teacher to the end.

So I’m back in Austin now and I have to wrap this up and get back to work in the Dean’s Office. Briefly now—and it deserves more—there was little if any rehearsal and sound check for the Shenzhen concert. Most of that day was spent matching up our student musicians with the kid-musicians from Shenzhen (with a translator to mediate) for sectional rehearsals and lessons on the big finishing encore that would mass the WE with all the student bands that would also be performing that night. Our students said that this exchange with the Chinese students was one of the most rewarding aspects of the entire tour.

The concert that evening was a three-hour epic in a packed—even the seats were small—very warm hall full of children and families: the first half was the WE; the second half was three student bands from Shenzhen; the “third half” was the second half of the WE program—John Mackey’s Wine Dark Sea and a variety of encores; followed by a couple of hundred student musicians massed on stage, most of them standing, for a combined performance conducted by maestro Junkin and a young recruit from the audience. The huge program was punctuated throughout by a master and mistress of ceremonies introducing each new piece in both Cantonese (?) and English. Plastic American and Chinese flags were passed out at the door and were being waved throughout the program. Seats squeaked. Smart phones and tablets were held in the air taking pictures through much of the concert.

The stage management was a wild affair, with the master and mistress moving promptly on stage for a new announcement even as the band was still taking a bow from the last piece. Adding to the swirl were random photographers and videographers literally walking up on stage into the back sections of the orchestra to get their shots, all the while the camera boom flying overhead with dangling wires threatening to entangle bassoonists and bass players. And the audience clapped at every conceivable interval, with enthusiasm. Totally charming and exhausting.

As amazing as the concert experience was, the evening was not over after the final encore of massed bands. Our hosts were good enough to plan in a café in the basement of the hall a “Dumpling Banquet” of traditional steamed dumplings and beer. (The dumplings were steamed. The beer was deliciously cold—a perfect combination!) You can imagine the reaction of 70 sweaty, tired musicians and staff when they had gotten back into their jeans and found heaping platters of dumplings and ice-cold Chinese beer waiting for them. The banquet was accompanied by spectacular performances by local musicians on traditional Chinese instruments: a Dizi, a bamboo flute; a Xun, or ocarina, a clay flute; and one Erhu player (the Erhu is a two-stringed, bowed instrument) that had the entire room on its feet clapping and cheering. I was very proud of our students, as tired and dumpling-besotted as they were, that when these musicians played for them, they were both attentive and appreciative.

And of course, the evening closed out with some courageous karaoke of doubtful musical merit that was no doubt captured on smart-phone video for posterity before all climbed back on the buses for the sleepy trek back to Hong Kong.

I was on board my flight back to Austin the next morning, exhausted, but missing the UT Wind Ensemble, which had the day off before heading on to Beijing.

My thanks to all our students, our faculty—especially Jerry and Nathan—and the support staff for this unforgettable musical adventure “over the Pacific.” You did the University of Texas proud! Congratulations to all! I hope your experiences in Beijing and London are as unforgettable as they were Shenzhen. Safe travels home!

- Dean Dempster

Shenzhen (John Mackey)

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A guest post from composer John Mackey, who is traveling with the Wind Ensemble:

We’re two weeks into the Around The World tour with the University of Texas Wind Ensemble. I’ve wanted to post blog posts along the way, but the days have been overflowing with activities. Today is our last day in Hong Kong. We’re off to Beijing in the morning, but in the meantime, I have an hour free to write a post – and yesterday was too great of a day to go without a blog.

We’ve been in Hong Kong since last Thursday. There was a runout concert to Macau on Saturday – a 14-hour day with ferry trips, a dinner, and a concert – and after less than eight hours back at the hotel, we were out the door again, this time heading to Shenzhen, China — our first trip into China – and our first trip through Chinese immigration. Even with dozens of instruments going through customs, the trip was remarkably smooth. A student took this picture with his phone before he saw the sign warning of imprisonment if you took a picture.

How was China different from what we’d experienced so far? For starters, the food was different. I mean, they have GREEN CUCUMBER flavored potato chips, as if they don’t seem to realize that CUCUMBERS ARE THE YUCKIEST FOOD THAT EVER WAS. (Other food in Shenzhen, it turned out, was delicious. Stay tuned.)

The concert was at the Xi Xiang Music Valley Cultural Center. It is in the valley of music – in THE TOWN OF WIND MUSIC! Why doesn’t America have a wind music town??? (Jerry Junkin for Mayor!)

So our busses pull up to the cultural center, and there were all of these kids on the stairs, clapping in rhythm and chanting to welcome us. I’m afraid I have no snarky comment about this because it was a lovely moment.

I mean, they were so excited – and so adorable.

A banner in the lobby welcomed the UT Wind Ensemble, recognizing their status as a top-3 concert band. (Who are numbers two and three?)

The afternoon started with masterclasses, where the UT students worked with students from the area bands.

This picture really captures the joy of the entire experience.

I’ll say one thing about southern China in June: it is hot. This kid had the right idea with those shorts. (I also love that he’s smaller than his horn.)

Fun with oboes.

But what brings on smiles more than a bass drum? (The kid on the left was later spotted wearing his tambourine as a hat, which I’m now going to require in my next piece.)

It was almost concert time! China is a culture where smoking is pretty common, so this sign hanging inside the concert hall was actually somewhat necessary. I want this sign for inside of our house.

When concert attendees arrived, they received programs and flags for both China and the US.

The crowd — standing-room by the time the concert started — was pretty excited to see the UT Wind Ensemble. The concert even had two emcees – one speaking Chinese, the other (the woman in the super sparkly gown) translating to English.

There were dozens of people filming the concert with their phones. As one UT musician said after the concert, “if China had YouTube, we’d all be famous!” Here, an audience member films Nathan Williams – the UT clarinet professor – during his wonderful performance of Frank Ticheli’s clarinet concerto.

Some audience members took the concert filming just a LITTLE over-the-top.

The performance of “Wine-Dark Sea” was the most energetic yet. Like, blow the roof off the joint energetic.

The encores followed, and in a first, Nathan Williams joined the clarinet section. (He’s the clarinetist with a beard.)

One of the encores was “The Stars and Stripes Forever” (of course). Jerry Junkin spontaneously — shortly before the “piccolo break” — went out into the audience and invited a kid up on stage to help him conduct. It was an amazing moment – in a day of beautiful moments.

Here, the kid takes his well-deserved bow.

The final encore brought dozens of area young players to the stage for a final joint piece. Here, they all bow together.

Many curtain calls later, it was time for… Dumpling Party!!! The dumplings were delicious. During the meal, we were treated to performances by area musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments.

Vincent Pierce, the UT harpist, takes video notes.

Here, a local woman plays an erhu – an instrument that, before last night, I had only heard played by a 75-year old man on the NYC Times Square subway platform. This was… better.

It was a great post-concert party.

Then it was time for karaoke! Here, flutist Meekyoung Lee and clarinetist Nick Councilor sing “I Will Always Love You.”

Nick’s teacher, Nathan Williams, sums up their performance perfectly.

It was a perfect day, from start to finish. I can’t say enough to thank our host, Joseph Cheung. So, we’ll settle for a toast.

Thank you, Shenzhen, for a wonderful experience!

The Halfway Mark (JFJ)

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We have now reached just beyond the half way point of our Around the World Tour. When the plans were initially coming together for this tour, a friend of mine warned, “you shouldn’t be going to Hawai’i, you may never get your students out of there!” I was, of course, never worried about us departing, since we had some great adventures ahead of us, but nonetheless, our time in Honolulu was very special. All of the “nut and bolts” of a tour like this got off to a wonderful start; i.e., the plane arrived with all of our baggage, on time, the hotel and staff at the Hilton Hawaiian Village were wonderful, the tour to the USS Arizona was the moving experience that we knew it would be. A side note here, it was not lost on us that the vast majority of those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor were the same age, and in many cases younger, than the vast majority of our students, and that the Navy Band assigned to the USS Arizona was completely lost in the invasion.

Somehow, the amazingly generous spirit that pervades the wonderful people of Hawai’i was seemingly on display all of the time. Our first concert at Pearl City Cultural Center was a fitting start to the tour. Acoustically, it is a wonderful hall, and we can’t begin to thank our amazing hosts at Pearl City, especially Mr. Chadwick Kamei, for all of their efforts on our behalf. Nathan Williams began his remarkable run of spellbinding performances of Frank Ticheli’s Clarinet Concerto, and John Mackey’s Wine-Dark Sea has continued to amaze audiences from that first performance onward.

There are detailed blog posts about the concerts in Okazaki City, Tokyo, Taipei, Hong Kong, Macau and Shenzhen. They have all been beautiful performances, each one unique, and each one very special. Different halls, obviously different acoustics and very different audiences, but all connected by the fact that we were fortunate enough to be sharing those moments with each other, and with audiences who wanted nothing more than to be there, with us, in that space at that time, hearing us play our hearts out.

After the adventure of our flight to Nagoya, I was truly amazed by several important lessons. The The University of Texas Wind Ensemble is a remarkable collection of people. Their resilience, optimistic spirit, gifted music making, concern for one another and their amazing talents have been on display throughout the entire tour. Additionally, they are the ambassadors for music, for our university and for our country that politicians could only dream of producing. And somehow, seemingly, can’t.

While our performances have been special, played for large appreciative audiences, it has been countless other moments that have helped us to understand other cultures and allowed them to know us in ways that they might not have imagined before. Whether it was the simple wave back at the local citizens of Okazaki City who came out of their houses to see who the young Americans were walking down their residential street, or the joining of an in-progess soccer game with young children in Tokyo, or letting our Taiwanese students proudly show their colleagues their wonderful city, or the opportunity to perform alongside Chinese students yesterday in Shenzhen as well as to work with those students for an hour before the performance, somehow all of these things have combined to make the world a better, and smaller, place.

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That’s what music does. Shared experience that goes well beyond political boundaries, ethnic, racial, religious or personal differences – all of us, and our audience, in the same space having the same experience at the same time. We are fortunate enough to be sharing this with our audiences and with each other. We are trying our best to document it all, but at the end of the day, you simply had to be there. For a musician, it just doesn’t get any better. What starts here, really does change the world.

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Hook ‘em!

- Jerry Junkin, Director of Bands

Hong Kong and Macau Concerts

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The Wind Ensemble landed in Hong Kong last Wednesday, and things have been busy ever since! Besides enjoying one of the most beautiful skylines on the planet…..

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…we’ve also been busy performing all over the region.  Our first concert was here in Hong Kong at Tsuen Wan Town Hall, and was supported by the Hong Kong Wind Philharmonia (of which Professor Junkin serves as Music Director).

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Hong Kong is the lengthiest of all of our stops on the tour, and it was great fun to perform a concert in our temporary home for an incredible audience!

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Many thanks to Victor Tam, Chan Tin Yan, and everyone who pitched in to make our Hong Kong concert a tremendous success!

After a free day in Hong Kong on Friday, we traveled by ferry to nearby Macau for a concert on Saturday.  Besides the opportunity to visit one of the greatest gambling capitals in the world next to Las Vegas (the Wind Ensemble had a chance to visit The Venetian after our concert), we also had the opportunity to break in the brand-new concert hall at the University of Macau.

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The University of Macau is moving into a brand new campus this coming fall, and we were honored to be the first perfroming group invited into their beautiful hall.

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Many thanks to Pui Long Leong and the Macau Band Directors Association for their hospitality and support for a terrific concert!  We’re thrilled to have had the opportunity to perform in Macau!

While staying in Hong Kong, we’re fortunate to have had the opportunity to perform three concerts for wonderful audiences in three different regions.  More to come on our Shenzhen concert soon!  Needless to say, the Wind Ensemble is having a wonderful time in Hong Kong, and we look forward to continuing our journey into China in the coming days.

My Experience: Musings

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Words cannot express how grateful I am to be attending The University of Texas at Austin. Very few institutions are capable of mounting a tour of this magnitude. The University community has been fully supportive of the Wind Ensemble’s efforts. Without the gracious support of President Powers and Dean Dempster, the tour would not have been possible. I must also mention that there are several private donors that contributed to the tour. They also deserve an immense amount of credit for making this tour a reality.

I am in awe of Professor Junkin and my colleagues. They are tremendous people, and it is such a joy to share this experience with them. I am astounded by their musicianship and humanity. They give their best efforts for each and every performance. The quality of the compositions and performances are at an exceptionally high level. Each concert has been received with prolonged rapturous applause. Asian cultures, thus far, seem to express their appreciation for a fantastic performance differently from audiences in the United States. They don’t stand, which is really refreshing. Audiences in the states are much too quick to reward mediocre performances with perfunctory standing ovations that lack sincerity. There is nothing perfunctory about the way our Asian friends have responded to us. I must also mention Dr. Nathan Williams, Dr. Frank Ticheli, and Mr. John Mackey–three first class artists. It is awesome to have them with us.

Each and every city that we have visited is beautiful and unique in its own way. So far, we have experienced Honolulu, Okazaki City (Japan), Tokyo, Taipei, and Hong Kong. Honolulu is exactly as one would imagine. Okazaki City is a quaint city still deeply rooted in Japanese traditions. Everyone was so friendly and respectful. Tokyo seems to be a product of modern times. Everyone is friendly and respectful in Tokyo; however, it is quite different from Okazaki City. Tokyo’s pace of life seems to be much faster. One can see the efforts that Taipei is making to establish itself as one of the world’ stop tourist destinations. Hong Kong is visually stunning with its expansive skyline and mountainous countryside. It, too, is a city that is constantly on the move.

Professor Junkin took a few gentleman to see a tailor this morning. This could potentially be a top highlight of the trip for me. It is possible to get handmade designer-quality suits for extremely reasonable prices. It will be quite some time before I ever purchase a suit in the states again! I am
going to make some major upgrades to my wardrobe over the next year thanks to “my” new tailor.

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This tour and everything surrounding it is inspiring. I am inspired to reach new heights musically and creatively. I am inspired to think outside of the box which allows me to explore uncharted territory. How can one not be inspired by this incredible experience?

Next Stop: Macau.

- Corey P., Doctoral Student in Conducting