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Chorale group represents Indiana State during performances in China

June 17, 2015

If only for 12 days, several Sycamore Singers got a taste of what it's like being professional performers working abroad in China - adjusting to the time change and trying new cuisine while operating on an Energizer bunny-type of schedule.

It was all part of a study abroad experience in China, May 23-June 3, for 14 members of the Indiana State University choral ensemble and Scott Buchanan, a School of Music professor and director of choral activities for the university.

"I think I learned and accomplished all of those things, as this trip was really eye-opening for me," said Trenton Baker, a junior vocal performance major from Martinsville who joined the Sycamore Singers last year. "The respect and admiration of a U.S. citizen from the Chinese natives was something I had to adjust to really quickly. When we would go sightseeing in Beijing, we would have people staring and waving at us or families pulling a few of us aside to get a picture taken either with their children or themselves."

Brian Kilp, professor of music, said the trip owes a great debt of gratitude for the support from the Center for Global Engagement, including its director, Chris McGrew, and Kristin Barley, international affairs assistant, as well as the College of Arts and Sciences Dean John Murray, and Paul Bro, director of the School of Music.

Kilp was part of the group and was responsible in large part for the logistics and scheduling of the trip through my past work establishing personal and Institutional partnerships in China and with the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the U.S. Consulate in Shenyang.

The trip was supported by the Unbounded Possibilities initiative and included performances at Minzu University, Beijing Normal University, the U.S. consulate in Shenyang, Shenyang University, Liaoning University, Shenyang Art School, Shenyang Normal University and Shenyang Conservatory of Music, as well as a taped performance and interviews at a TV station in Shenyang and a clinic with the Chinese Children's Choir.

"There was a lot of student collaboration because the goal of the trip was to have our students work with Chinese music students. We wanted them to learn our music and for us to learn their music," Buchanan said. "We did some improvisation and vocal jazz and demonstrated it for them before inviting them to join us, and they jumped right in. Even with the language barrier, it all went smoothly and the music was really cool."

The beauty of the trip was that the students didn't need to speak the same language to make a connection, said Daniel Delgado, a junior choral music education major from Elkhart.

"It taught me that music is worldwide and even the tightest of harmonies can bring countries together, and I'm ready to go back and teach more students and faculty at the universities in China," said Delgado, who has been a member of the Sycamore Singers since the fall of 2013.

After the group's spring concert on campus, members going to China began daily rehearsals for the trip.

"There was only one time when we just walked on stage and even then we gave a stellar performance," Delgado said, who said the performances were rivaled only by the group's trip to the Great Wall of China.

Having studied abroad in Florence, Italy, Mackenzie Tank, was no novice traveler.

But the trip to China helped the senior music business major from Atlanta experience another new culture.

"It was the best experience and now I've caught the travel bug," she said. "Before going over, I knew nothing about the Chinese culture, so the trip really opened my eyes as to how kind the people are and helped to understand their traditions and values."

The group prepped for the trip by creating a three-part concert program consisting of Americana music, improvisation and vocal jazz pieces. They also learned Chinese music with the help of a visiting scholar from the Shenyang Art School, who is currently working on the Indiana State campus.

"The music was the easy part for them. What I really wanted (the students) to experience was the culture and life in China and I think they did that," Buchanan said. "By the time we left, no one was using forks and the students were trying all kinds of foods they'd never seen before. For me, it was all about watching the students - some who had never been on a plane before - take to a new culture and new experiences."

A day was also dedicated to seeing some of China's best sights, including Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, Beijing Zoo, The Great Wall and the 2008 Olympic Village. The following day, the students took a five-hour, high-speed train ride to Shenyang for a performance and question and answer session attended by 120 people at the U.S. consulate.

"There are many experiences that I won't forget, but I think the most memorable would be having the experience of climbing the Great Wall of China," Baker said. "It's something that I have learned in history class growing up, reading about it in textbooks during public schooling. I finally got the chance to physically be on it, climbing on one of its routes. The whole trip was just so surreal."

Contact: Scott Buchanan, director of choral activities, Indiana State University, scott.buchanan@indstate.edu

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or betsy.simon@indstate.edu

Photo: http://www.smugmug.com/photos/i-vvPZfmh/0/S/i-vvPZfmh-S.jpg - Members of Indiana State University's Sycamore Singers pose for a photo at the Great Wall during a trip to China that included several performances at universities and the U.S. Consulate, in addition to sightseeing.

Photo: http://www.smugmug.com/photos/i-SdFWn3H/0/S/i-SdFWn3H-S.jpg - Fourteen members of Indiana State University's Sycamore Singers participated in a study abroad experience in China, May 23-June 3, which included at Minzu University, Beijing Normal University, the U.S. consulate in Shenyang, Shenyang University, Liaoning University, Shenyang Art School, Shenyang Normal University and Shenyang Conservatory of Music, as well as a taped performance and interviews at a TV station in Shenyang and a clinic with the Chinese Children's Choir.

Story Highlights

Fourteen members of the Sycamore Singers participated in a study abroad experience in China, May 23-June 3, which included performances at the U.S Consulate and several universities.

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