Student Singers Taking Voices on Tour of China
Members of UT Dallas Group to Lend Talents Through Confucius Institute Link
May 27, 2008
Seven young women who perform with the UT Dallas Chamber Singers have been getting their voices ready to travel next month through northern China with the Dallas Li-Sheng Ladies Choir.
The trip is both an opportunity for the students and a help to the volunteer choir, the name of which means “Voice of Beauty.”
The 20-member Dallas Li-Sheng Ladies Choir usually tours at least once a year overseas. After committing to a competition in Beijing, however, the volunteer choir learned that some of its members could not make the trip scheduled for May 31 to June 11.
Anchi Ku, a UT Dallas alumna who helped organize the Nov. 4 gala celebration for the UT Dallas Confucius Institute, contacted Kathryn Evans, director of the UT Dallas Chamber Singers and associate dean in the School of Arts & Humanities. Ku asked whether any choir students would like to tour with the Li-Sheng choir.
After auditioning before conductor Emily Kuo Vong, seven students were chosen: Karen Banzon, Kelly Crowley, Ashley Hooker, Morgan Jones, Brittany Madsen, Preeti Parulekar and Zöe Webre.
Since late February, the students have been practicing once a week with the choir.
Banzon, a senior majoring in speech-language pathology and audiology, said the hard part has been learning new songs in Chinese.
“Singing in the choir can be kind of intimidating, especially since everyone in the choir speaks Chinese and most of the direction is given in Chinese,” said Banzon. “But the ladies of the Li-Sheng Women’s Choir are really nice and welcoming, and they always bring food to the rehearsal.”
Once in China, the group will be joined by 13 other women from Shanghai. They will be visiting the cities of Beijing, Datong, Taiyuan and Pingyao. For the competition in Beijing, the group will perform two Chinese songs and one French song.
The School of Arts & Humanities and the Confucius Institute are paying for the students’ airfare. Ms. Vong is paying for their lodging for the six days of the competitions, and the students are picking up the remaining costs. All in all, they say this is an opportunity not to be missed.
“When you travel abroad to most foreign countries, you have an idea of what to expect,” said Webre, a senior majoring in art and performance. “But with China, I have no idea of what I am getting into. I hope it’s an experience that will be with me for my whole life.”
It will be the first time for sophomore Jones, in the School of General Studies, to travel outside the U.S.
“It’s going to be an experience in itself to be with these ladies,” said Jones. “They have prepared a large itinerary. I don’t think they are leaving anything out. It definitely is going to be the experience of a lifetime.”
When not performing, the group plans to visit the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and some out-of-the-way places not ordinarily seen by Western tourists.
The Confucius Institute at UT Dallas is a nonprofit center that promotes Chinese language and culture. The Chinese government has opened 21 such institutes in the U.S., but this is the only one in Texas. The institute is housed within the School of Arts & Humanities. Dr. Dennis Kratz, dean of the School of Arts & Humanities, expects the institute’s presence on campus to result in more cross-cultural experiences for students.
“This is just the first of many opportunities that will result from the establishment of the Confucius Institute at UT Dallas, ranging from cultural experiences such as this to semester and year-long semesters in China,” said Dr. Kratz. “We hope to nurture as many as possible citizens of the world who are comfortable traveling, communicating and interacting internationally.”