May 13, 2009

Music students, faculty embark on China trip

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The academic year is over, and an ensemble of musicians from Southern Illinois University Carbondale is celebrating by going to China.

Members of the SIUC Concert Choir, SIUC Wind Ensemble and School of Music faculty departed from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport today (May 13) for a one-stop flight that will take them to Seoul, South Korea, and then to Beijing International Airport in China to begin their concert tour and cultural exchange in China.

The musical ensembles will perform three concerts during their tour, and will visit cultural sites in China, including the Great Wall, Olympic venues, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and the Qin Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors.

Susan Davenport, director of choral activities and the assistant director of the School of Music, said international travel was the next logical step for SIUC’s School of Music. Recent performances at state and national conventions, and a student ensemble debut at New York City’s famed Carnegie Hall, indicate that the students are ready for such a challenge, she noted.

Christopher Morehouse directs the Wind Ensemble, and led his ensemble to Carnegie Hall last year. He said the job of getting more than 70 people -- including students, faculty and several parents -- to China is daunting.

“It’ll be great once we are there,” he said, just days before the scheduled departure. “The School of Music has enjoyed some successful concert performances, but we haven’t made travel arrangements anything like the scale of going to China for 10 days.”

Morehouse noted, too, that the cultural differences between China and the United States, as well as the language barrier, are both a thrill and challenge.

“There’s no faking it with Mandarin Chinese,” he said with a laugh, adding that the students have all learned at least a few basic phrases in Mandarin. “It’ll be interesting to see how they interact with the university students and musicians they meet there.”

SIUC freshman music major, Izabel Zambrzycki, from Antioch, said that though she has known for months she is bound for China, it seems an unreal prospect.

“I don’t think it will sink in until I’m sitting on the plane ready to take off,” she said. “Just the idea of being half-way around the world is amazing.”

Zambrzycki, a member of the wind ensemble, said she is not nervous about playing, as she feels the ensemble is well prepared. However, she is excited about playing for an audience so far from home.

“I hope they’re as excited to see us as we are to see them,” she said. “I hope the audience gets a sense of what the music culture is in America. And I hope to come back with the same -- a sense of what music is like in China and they consider repertoire.”

“I am really excited to see the Olympic venues and the Forbidden City,” Emily Plumlee, a Tamaroa resident and also a wind ensemble member, said. “And I am really looking forward to performing for a Chinese audience. I have been told that in China, venues with American musicians are often packed, because many of the people there have not had the opportunity to hear American music. Because the majority of the audience does not speak English, our musical communication will be even more important.”

Todd Epps, a member of the concert choir from Loda, said he hopes the concerts will give to the Chinese people in equal measure the excitement and cultural education that the SIUC students will receive from their visit.

“It’s cool that we have the opportunity to bring them something while we visit their country -- good ole’ American music,” he said.

“I just can’t believe all the files of things I’ll have in my memory banks after this trip,” Davenport said.

The ensemble returns home on May 23.

Here is a list, by hometown, of the SIUC students participating in the tour and cultural exchange with China.


Antioch -- Izabel Zambrzycki

Bloomington -- Erik Lehmkuhl

Carbondale -- William Bryant, Frank Cheon, James Davis, Kara Gregory, Jacob Hays, Eric Hendrickson, Anna Jackson

Carterville -- Travis Westbrook

Cary -- Laurie Lewis

Charleston -- Jessica Drake

Chester -- James G. Beers

Chicago -- William Barney, Sean Denison, Aaron Moore, Jordan Singer

Christopher -- Joshua Livesay

Cobden -- Metiney Suwanawongse

Collinsville -- Katelyn Ratliff

Columbia -- Audra Fuhr

Coulterville -- Kaylyn Gimber

Danvers -- Brian Clark

De Kalb -- Ross Weckesser

Dixon -- Jonathan Poquette

Du Quoin -- Lydia Dunmyer, Jeanne Millikin, James Minton

Fults -- Katilin Fahy

Hawthorne Woods -- Piotr Chudyba

Lockport -- Kayley Fitt-Handzik

Loda -- Todd Epps

Metropolis -- Michael Thompson

Murphysboro -- Jani Bryant, Jessica Herring, Timothy Wessel

O’Fallon -- Janelle Fitts

Peoria -- Walter Lewis

Ramsey -- Nathan Kingery

Salem -- Ryan Ham

Shiloh -- Kelsey Reger

Sparta -- Robert Reed

St. Charles -- Monica Bertrand

Tamaroa -- Emily Plumlee

Waterloo -- Caleb McCoy

Willow Springs -- Nicholas Cincotti

Wood River -- Casey Levan

Woodstock -- Nathan Staley


Calera -- Cordelia Anderson


Dora -- Gavin Murphy


Boise -- Alana Boltz


Bonne Terre -- Morgan Thurman

Oak Ridge -- Jason Miller


Cuyahoga Falls -- Sarah Besse


League City -- Jacquelyn McDole


Issaquah -- Paul Petrucelly


Silver Lake -- Jacob Vozel


Meng-Chun Chi -- assistant professor of violin, soloist

Susan Davenport -- Director of Choral Activities

Kathleen Ginther -- lecturer, composed original piece for performance

Christopher Morehouse -- Director of Wind Ensemble