The UI World Music Celebration and The Virtue of Musical Diversity

15151515d23f6b19-5“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” ~Confucius

I had the remarkable fortune to grow up in one of the greatest arts communities in the United States. Fairbanks, Alaska, was and is still a thriving mecca for artists of all types. Fairbanks nurtures this vibrant arts scene through multiple non-profit arts organizations and with the support of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. UAF is a model of an engaged university that is invested in the cultural life of the community; every year my siblings and I would attend music lessons, concerts, recitals, and arts camps at the university.

In addition to the thriving arts scene, Fairbanks, Alaska is a remarkably diverse community. In addition to the indigenous cultural groups, there are also large Asian and Hispanic populations. With these various population groups came the opportunity to be exposed to many different kinds of music. Some of my earliest memories were of attending the World Eskimo Indian Olympics, the annual Fairbanks Native Association’s potlatch, and the UAF Festival of Native Arts (now in it’s 43rd year!). At each of these events there was dancing, singing, and music from the various indigenous cultural groups in Alaska from Athabascan fiddling to Inupiaq, Yupik, Alutiiq, Tlingit, and Tsimshian dancing, drumming, and singing. It was through these early experiences with indigenous music that I began to develop a love for traditional music and non-Western song structures.

Growing up my brother and I would often tune into our local community radio station that hosted weekly Japanese, Vietnamese, and Hispanic radio shows. I would also stay up late on Sunday nights to listen to the syndicated public radio program Afropop Worldwide. In junior high I got a short-wave radio for my birthday that opened my musical horizons even further by allowing me to tune into radio stations in eastern Russia and Korea. By the time I was in high school I had also discovered the syndicated radio show Music from the Hearts of Space and would tune in every Sunday night after Afropop Worldwide.

Fairbanks was also an easy stopover point for many international artists and musicians who came to tour the continental United States. I recall as a child seeing many international dance troupes and musicians in our small high school auditorium. One of the most memorable was a Japanese group that put on a spectacular show of taiko drumming and other traditional music. It was at this concert that I fell in love with the sound of the Japanese koto. The sound of the koto really fascinated me and I bought a tape of koto music at the end of the concert and listened to it constantly at home.   The koto was the first Asian instrument that got me interested in Asian music and song structures.

Of course in the 1980’s my ability to find Asian music in tape or record form was very limited, so I had to rely on the radio. I found that Music from the Hearts of Space would frequently play Asian-influenced music and it was here that I became familiar with Indian music and musicians. Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, Zakir Hussain, Hariprasad Chaurasia, and the Pakistani Qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan all became favorites of mine and I would buy blank tapes and record each Music from the Hearts of Space program every week to capture their music…then I would go through the painstaking process of creating another mixtape with just the Indian and Pakistani music on it. One of my most fond memories is of sitting in the open door of a freight car on a slow train from Taipei to Xinzhu, Taiwan while listening to Jai Uttal’s version of the traditional Indian bhajan “Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram” on my Walkman.

While I was in Taiwan I would love walking through the parks and listening to the old men play the erhu in the early evening. I also became enchanted with the sound of the guzheng (the more refined Chinese version of the Japanese koto), and bought as many CD’s of guzheng music as I could before returning to the U.S. in 1994.  My roommates in college often complained of my diverse and seemingly “odd” taste in music, but over time they also were able to find pleasure in the different rhythms, textures, and sounds that I would play in our apartment.

I have since continued to cultivate my passion for world music, and have sought out opportunities to see groups from around the world who have expanded my worldview.  As Mark Twain wrote over 100 years ago in his book Innocents Abroad: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” I believe the same can be said of music!

Diverse music from around the world is a good alternative to travel for fighting prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. Can’t afford to travel? Listen to music from Ghana, Argentina, Cuba, Russia, Poland, India, Iran, or China. It will challenge you, broaden your mind, and make you a better person. Allowing yourself to be slowly anesthetized by the homogeneous pop dreck that dominates commercial radio these days is exactly the same as “vegetating in one little corner of the earth”, and does nothing to cultivate the virtues of diversity and open-mindedness.  Confucius recognized the virtue of music appreciation over 2500 years ago when he wrote: “When courtesy and music are better understood and appreciated, there will be no war.” Indeed.

So, I guess this is a really long-winded way of saying that I am really, really excited about the upcoming Lionel Hampton School of Music World Music Celebration! The University of Idaho Confucius Institute is so excited to be one of the main sponsors of this event this year and we have worked over the past 6 months to bring some extremely talented musicians from China to participate in the World Music Celebration. These musicians will be playing traditional Chinese instruments like the erhu, pipa, hulusi, and dizi, and will be performing traditional Chinese songs in addition to collaborating with some local musicians and student music groups to present some jazz-fusion pieces. This year’s event is going to be an outstanding opportunity for you to really experience and enjoy traditional Chinese music at it’s finest!

As we have learned over the past few months in facilitating this musical collaboration between the UI LHSOM and our partner university, the South China University of Technology, music truly has served as a universal language and has created opportunities for dialogue and cooperation that transcend cultural and linguistic differences. Please try and find time in your schedules to attend this year’s World Music Celebration on the evenings of February 5 & 6. I guarantee that you will be entertained, but more importantly you will leave the event as a better person.



By Dr. Hexian Xue

2013年4月,美国爱达荷大学孔子学院建立。在随后的系列文化活动中,我们有幸结识了一位70多岁的当地老人——Charlotte Sun。Charlotte Sun 博士是一位美国人,但她对中国文化情有独钟,她的博士论文就是围绕中国传统文化的深入研究。最近十多年,Charlotte一直居住在美国爱达荷州莫斯科市。


广义的文化是指人类创造的一切物质产品和精神产品的总和。多元优秀文化共存是建设美好世界的基础。四十多年以来,Charlottee一直致力于寻求各种方式传授中国文化。她知道,在历史上爱达荷州和中国广东有着长久的联系,爱达荷州的矿产和森林业的发展倾注了中国人的智慧。孔子是中国传统文化的代表人物,孔子学院的任务是向当地人传授中国语言和文化;孔子学院是中美文化互通交融的桥梁。爱达荷大学孔子学院成立以来,Charlotte Sun和其丈夫非常支持孔院的文化活动,也不断打电话或写邮件表示对爱达荷大学孔子学院的关心。

2015年1月,我们孔子学院计划开设“China on Palouse”系列讲座,向美国西北部Palouse地区介绍中国的经济发展和中国文化。Charlotte 欣然接受了我们的邀请,为爱达荷大学师生和莫斯科市居民做了一场内容极为丰富的讲座,其题目为“我和中国的不解之缘”。让我们难以忘记的是讲座开始的第一句话:“爱达荷大学孔院中美方院长是我的朋友。朋友意味着志同道合。我愿意为孔子学院的工作出一份力”。2015年春,Charlotte 把Prof. Synder 作为讲座教授介绍给我们孔院,Prof. Synder 的“China on Palouse”系列讲座深受师生和社区居民的喜爱。

Charlotte Sun博士一生与道教、太极拳、中医与气功结下了不解之缘。她影响了一批热爱中国传统文化、中国传统医学和中国美食的爱好者。她培养的这批热爱汉语和中国文化的学生,已经在世界上一些地区传播中国语言和文化。

My First Experience in Teaching Chinese

Chen Hong

Chinese is my mother tongue. As is known to all, Chinese is the language that is spoken by the largest number of people in the world. Therefore, I’m often proud that I am one of the people who speak this language. I have also been an English learner for over thirty years and an English teacher for over twenty years back in China. Therefore, I assume that I am bilingually fluent and can serve as a good bridge to connect Chinese and Americans through this precious chance of being a Chinese instructor in a Confucius Institute in the United States. However, my self-professed pride and superiority are being tested after I came to the United States to teach Chinese for one and half months.

Prior to all other issues, I have found that my American students are very serious with their Chinese study. As an instructor, I must provide them with very detailed syllabus before they decide to take this course. The syllabus must contain almost everything related to this course, including the teaching content of each week, even each period, the grading system, the attendance check system, the exact dates of the quizzes, the mid-term exam, the final term exam, etc. More importantly, I should strictly abide by the syllabus which I formulate. This is somewhat different from what I have been accustomed to in China, where I seldom provide the students with such a detailed syllabus in advance. Instead, I do provide the students with an outline syllabus which is just a guideline of the course and may be adjusted all through the whole semester according to the students’ feedbacks. Though I had anticipated some changes and challenges before I came to the United States, the pressure I have encountered thus far has been overwhelming. Consequently, I need to adjust what I have been used to in China to prepare everything in advance, which turns out to be a big challenge to my habitual procrastination. Of course, I believe I will benefit from this challenge and change.

As for the Chinese teaching itself, I have come across many problems as well. The biggest problem that tears me apart is that I do not know how to help my students memorize the Chinese characters. My students are eager to learn more spoken Chinese and they are really making progress in terms of this aspect, but they are afraid to write and memorize the characters. I once assigned my students to recap the dialogue we learned in a piece of narration in class the next day and it turned out they did a great job in writing down the main idea with Chinese Pinyin. Encouraged by their good performance, I asked them to write down what they had written in Pinyin with Chinese characters in class. Nonetheless, the students were reluctant to cooperate and the work they turned in was totally different from what they had done before. I just asked them why and one student responded, “Pinyin is similar to English. It has syllables that can help us memorize, but characters do not have anything similar to our mother tongue. The strokes just do not make any sense to me and I do not know how to put them together and memorizing the sequence of the strokes of each character is just beyond my reach.” It seems that the students need an effective mnemonic to facilitate their Chinese characters’ memorization and use. Where is that mnemonic? I am struggling to find it out.

Grammar is always a big issue in teaching and learning a foreign language. Compared with English grammar, which is relatively simple because most of its grammar items are regular. Grammatical exceptions are rare. However, Chinese does not have many big grammatical rules. Rather, Chinese grammar seems to be very detailed and specific. It seems that many characters themselves are several items of grammatical points. For instance, the characters “会”,“好”,“了”,etc. are independent grammatical items. Their usages are divided into several units in different books. It is hard for the students to grasp their usages and become competent in using these characters correctly in their written and oral work. They need to familiarize both the characters and their grammatical function and usage. To these elementary Chinese learners, it seems that the Chinese grammar is adding insult to injury.

Contrary to the above-mentioned, I have found that my students are keen on understanding more about Chinese language and culture. For example, there is a unit which is about dinning in our textbook. Besides learning the regular dialogues in the textbook, I showed the students part of the popular document in China A Bite of China to my students, they got so thrilled that one student even announced in class “I miss China even though I have never been to China.” The students are very eager to know about the different Chinese local cuisines and low specialties throughout China even though their Chinese proficiency still prevents them from expressing more about their curiosity about China and their desire for more knowledge about China. In order to show my gratitude to my students’ strong enthusiasm for Chinese food and Chinese culture, I even cooked some Sichuan cuisine I am adept at to treat them. After all, I believe their desire for Chinese culture is a good propellant for their Chinese language learning. On the other hand, their Chinese language learning will surely promote their better understanding of Chinese culture.

In a nutshell, my Chinese teaching career has just begun and there is a long way to go in front of me. Nevertheless, I believe in this ancient Chinese saying, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with single step.” I have already made my first step, what I need to do is to get myself more adjusted and more adaptive to the brand-new environment and try my best to improve my effectiveness, efficiency and efficacy in teaching Chinese. I believe God will never disappoint those who help themselves. You see, Chinese and English are so similar, one can easily find a proverb which has the same counterpart in both languages!

一转眼,来爱达荷大学执教已经一年多了,每天忙忙碌碌,好似都没时间静下心来回顾往事。今天,偶有闲暇,就天马行空的回忆一下我在美国的工作点滴吧! 记得去年来莫斯科是秋季,和现在一样,秋高气爽,处处都是美景。只是已经开学,大堆工作等着去做,因此第二天就投入工作, 都没来得及倒时差。 第一次课是早上6点的太极拳课程,天蒙蒙亮,空气里已经有了冬天寒冷的意味。闻鸡起舞是中国习武者的习惯,但不知美国学生是否也习惯早起?到了上课地点,陆续有学生睡眼朦胧的进来。互相认识、介绍项目、开始练功、、、我的爱达荷大学执。 教生涯就这样有条不紊的开始了! 从8岁就开始习练的武术是我的挚爱,几十年来我一直恪守习武者“侠、义、礼、信、勇”的准则。来到爱达荷大学,也希望能将这项中国传统体育项目介绍给美国学生们。 来美国之前,听说美国学生课堂上较为活泼,而我对学生要求很严格,练武术是非常消耗体力的;并且学习基本动作时还比较乏味。因此,刚开始我还有点担心中国武术课能否在爱达荷大学顺利进行。一段时间后,我发现只要能调动起学生的积极性,让学生真正理解这门课的功能,美国学生会不怕苦也不怕累!有的学生还非常刻苦,每次下了课,还坚持自己多练习一会儿。 目前,爱达荷大学孔子学院已经开设了武术、剑术、太极拳课程。经过一年多的学习,有些学生已经可以演练几套拳术或者剑术;有的学生还参加了一些表演活动。学习武术可以锻炼体魄,修身养性,增强自信心;同时还可以了解和理解中国文化。我想这可能就是支撑他们一直坚持跟着我练下去的原因吧! 而作为老师的我呢,也在教学相长中不断提高自己。“文以评心,武以观德”,武德的修养极为重要。可以说,习武的过程就是一个不断提高修养的过程,无论你的武学修为达到何种境界,这个过程都是对自己的不断完善。 请让我们共同进步吧!

My Road to Language Learning and Teaching

Jing Tian, Chinese Instructor, University of Idaho Confucius Institute

English was, and is still a compulsory course in schools in China. Many kids hate that. I did. But now, after learning English for 23 years and teaching both English and Chinese for 15 years, my suggestion for my son is still “try to learn at least one foreign language very well”. That makes him hate me for a while, like I hated the president of my middle school.

I started to like learning English since I started to read and watch movies in English in college. I even got to talk with teachers from English-speaking countries. Suddenly I felt I was overblown with how big the world is and how different the peoples are. I laughed a long time when my British teacher told us that she quit smoking because her boyfriend was not willing to kiss an ashtray. I felt sad for a long time because my American teacher refused to use the coat that I offered when she was wearing short sleeves and it turned freezing cold outside after the class. Later I started to understand more. And I found myself more joyful, more understanding and more peaceful. I wanted to spread this feeling. That’s why, in addition to the fact that teaching language is considered a decent job in China, I started teaching languages.

I thought I was good enough in terms of both language and culture, because I was well-received by both my Chinese and foreign students and I could work as an interpreter very efficiently, until I began to teach Chinese here in the US.

Jokes, games, songs, soap plays and famous persons’ pictures were used a lot in my classes. My students loved them. So I tried the same here in the US, but failed, more than once, because the same picture or the same joke triggers different emotions in my American students. I thought a specific combination of materials would be very funny and can stimulate learning, but those materials were unknown to the students, let alone make them laugh. I started to ask around and do more researches. It turned out that I actually don’t know so much about the American culture. I began to change the strategy. I eliminated some pictures and began to ask students to put more funny ideas in the class. And the classroom began to be more harmonious, and I began to know more. It feels much better to see students enjoy the class while learning things.

There are more examples of how the cultural differences shocked me but made me a better person, and how I changed myself and thus influenced others.

I believe it is the same with the world outside the classroom. If we open out hearts, the world around us would be better, and there would be more light into our hearts.

I’d completely stopped hating the president of my middle school, actually I began to appreciate what he did, because without him pushing the students to learn English, I could never be me. And I hope I could also make a difference by teaching languages, even though what I do is just a tiny part of what’s happening in this enormous and diversified world.

Post by Jianhong Lu

梦想在远方 ——记我的盲人学生Alana M. Leonhardy Alana在春晚上朗诵诗歌 2014年春季开学前几天,我接到了一封特殊的电子邮件。发信人是爱达荷大学的一名本科生,叫Alana。她在信中说,她是盲人,但是很想学习汉语,能否注册孔子学院开设的汉语课。她的请求让我有点为难,教书这么多年,还是头一次碰到这样特殊的学生。经过与学校残疾学生管理办公室和系主管领导的具体协商,我收下了这个学生。 上课第一天,我见到了Alana。她身材娇小,声音甜美,人也长得漂亮,是她妈妈陪着她一起来的。从那一天起,妈妈每天接送她上下课,从不缺席、也不迟到,风雨无阻。她上课非常认真,发音准确,对学过的内容掌握熟练,也能应用自如,很快就成为班里的佼佼者。这让其他学生对她的学习态度肃然起敬。 经过一年零两个月的学习,她在听力和汉语口语表达上有很大进步。2015年爱达荷大学羊年春节联欢晚会上,她的一首配乐诗朗诵《梦想在远方》以其流利的语言、充沛的情感感动了在场观众,成为整场晚会的亮点。为了准备这个节目,我和她在课余排练了多次。因为她无法阅读,我把朗诵内容先录好音,让她反复听记,再一遍遍带她朗读,感受其中诗的节奏和韵律。她没有学过汉语的盲文,所以就利用字母代替声韵母、数字代替声调创造了“自己的文字”来加以辅助练习。以下是她在2015年春节晚会上的中英文朗诵稿,与大家共赏。 大家好! 我叫Alana M. Leonhardy,中文名字叫李莲娜。我是大学四年级学生,我的专业是心理学。 Good evening friends. I am Alana M. Leonhardy. I have a Chinese name: Li Lianna. I am a senior student of psychology of University of Idaho. 2014年1月,我报名参加爱达荷大学孔子学院的汉语课程,到现在已经学了一年汉语,我很喜欢学汉语。可能你们会问,你觉得汉语难不难?你为什么要学汉语? I like studying Chinese language. I … Continue reading Post by Jianhong Lu