[ skip to content ]

More Information about this image

You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Confucius Institute Grant Sends Music Professors to China

With a faculty research grant from the Confucius Institute at Old Dominion University, and an invitation from Beijing's Minzu University of China, music professors Mike Hall and Paul Kim spent nine days on an exchange trip whose itinerary included teaching master classes, conducting rehearsals, performing a concert with Minzu's advanced music students and serving as cultural ambassadors.

Hall, a trombonist and director of the ODU Brass Choir, demonstrated to students the nuances of the trombone, helping them discover the true versatility of the instrument.

"It was such a pleasure to meet and teach alongside faculty colleagues at Minzu University of China," he said. "We compared notes about our respective programs and I was impressed by their openness and collegiality, and by the stature of their programs and quality of their students, who audition into their school from all over China.

"The students there are hungry as bears; they could not get enough. We met with them individually and in groups practically every day, sometimes two and three times a day," Hall continued. "I was able to share an American approach to brass playing in the context of western, classical music. And I so enjoyed team teaching these concepts with Paul Kim."

Kim, a conductor, violinist, and composer, directs the ODU Symphony Orchestra and oversees ODU's string and chamber music programs. His direction of the Minzu Symphony Orchestra helped the students understand important features of an outstanding ensemble.

"As a visitor, I quickly realized that I had to discard any previous preconceptions of how people in China carried themselves on a daily basis," Kim said. "I was struck by the similarities between residents of Beijing and those of urban U.S. cities - how freely they went about their daily business and took advantage of pleasures such as food, walks in the park, attendance at music concerts such as the one we gave at Minzu University where at least 400 people attended and, of course, social media.

"I was intrigued by the many ways in which students at Minzu University resembled our own - their thirst for knowledge, their embrace of new technologies, their passion for music - but also ways in which they were unique, such as their close working relationships with individual mentors and their admirable discipline and focus over long rehearsal periods," Kim said.

What surprised the professors was how much they were able to communicate and bond despite language barriers.

"It took some effort from both sides to understand each other sometimes, but even understanding a few basics of each other's languages went a long way in being able to communicate and make a lasting connection," Kim said. "It certainly helped that we shared a common language of music; indeed, our ability to produce a successful concert together in one week's time, despite the language barrier, is testament to the power of music to connect people with completely different backgrounds."

The concert hall was filled for their June 4 performance. Hall began the evening with a short solo recital of European and American music with the help of the Minzu Symphony Orchestra conductor who joined him at the piano. Kim took the stage to conduct the students of the Minzu Symphony Orchestra in a program of classic European overtures that included Mozart and Brahms. The audience responded enthusiastically as did the students and faculty of Minzu University. The University vice president attended the evening as did music faculty from other music conservatories in Beijing.

Hall and Kim are already thinking of returning to Minzu in 2018 with a group of ODU student musicians to collaborate and perform with their Minzu counterparts. The opportnity to experience Chinese culture, and especially the musical culture of Minzu, which teaches 56 genres of ethnic Chinese music, and to share western musical repertoire and pedagogy indeed fulfill the CIODU mission to use cultural appreciation and scholarly initiatives to promote mutually productive partnerships

Site Navigation

Experience Guaranteed

Enhance your college career by gaining relevant experience with the skills and knowledge needed for your future career. Discover our experiential learning opportunities.

Academic Days

Picture yourself in the classroom, speak with professors in your major, and meet current students.

Upcoming Events

From sports games to concerts and lectures, join the ODU community at a variety of campus events.