31 May 2008

Saturday in Chengdu

Today is Saturday. Brent and I had breakfast at an “expat” restaurant, Peter’s. We then walked in the city a bit and met Qi Wenjun (Chi Chi) and Gao Xin for lunch. I first met Gao Xin as a high school student before he went to Duquesne to study saxophone with James Houlik. He finished his bachelor’s degree last month and returned home to Chengdu just before the earthquake. Now he is preparing to do his Master’s at Tennessee with Connie Frigo. Gao Xin has been very successful obtaining a US student visa so I wanted Wenjun to meet him. He talked her through the process and thought she seemed very prepared. Wenjun’s appointment is June 12 and Gao Xin’s appointment is June 19.

After lunch Gao Xin and Brent relaxed and listened to Gao Xin’s senior recital. Gao Xin is playing very well. We discussed his recital and many other saxophone topics.

My original plan was to meet another SOU prospective student He Jing-shan in Beijing at the Central Conservatory. She unsuccessfully attempted to obtain a visa four times at $130 each. Consequently we advised her to go to Shanghai, enter the ELS center there and attempt to get a visa in Shanghai. Since He Jing-shan is now in Shanghai I won’t be able to meet her but we were able to talk on the phone yesterday and she is still optimistic about studying conducting at SOU perhaps as early as spring quarter.

Morning Walk

Yesterday I went to Wang Jiang Lou Park on my morning walk. It is a nice walk and when I need to get out of the urban environment I often head there for a rest and tea. I found the park to be much cleaner than in the past. There are six ancient buildings from the Qing Dynasty and a new commemoration of Xue Tao, a poet from the Tang dynasty. Every morning locals exercise tai chi and many martial arts along the canal and in Wang Jiang Lou.

30 May 2008

Crossing the Street

Two street crossings at the Conservatory.

My favorite dish

SOU's future guitar student Qi Wenjun translated while I taught. Translating a music lesson or master class is always a test for a translator. Tomorrow Qi Wenjun and I will meet with an alum of SCCM who is an expert at obtaining a US visa. In the afternoon we had a working meeting of the International Saxophone Workshop. Li and I are laying the ground-work for this future project.

After lunch while resting in my 16th floor room, I felt an aftershock. Chengdu is getting back to normal and the tent cities I witnessed a few days ago are disappearing. I was told that students have been asked to go back to school and the government has set a deadline for tents to be removed.
Normally I would teach in a master class setting with 1 student performing and 30-50 watching. Because of the earthquake I have been teaching individual lessons at Li’s apartment. Several students are still away, having gone home to be with family during this stressful time. Others gather at Li’s home to watch me teach. It is a casual and relaxing environment. I taught one student as several others sat on the sofa and observed. Between lessons we drink tea and discuss all topics saxophone and music.

My favorite restaurant with my favorite dish–chicken cooked in chilies and peppercorns.

29 May 2008

Mushrooms Banquet

Today was a full day of teaching. In Ashland, Meiwen Richards and Tang Di joined us for a skyped lunch with Brent, Tang Guangfu and Li Hantao. Afterwards I went to Professor Li’s apartment to teach three of his students. It is gratifying to watch his students’ progress. I see them once or twice a year and some students like Chen Wen I have been teaching since my first trip to Chengdu in 2003. She will have her final examinations and graduate with a bachelor’s degree in just a few weeks. Chen Wen performed the Ibert and sounded fantastic.

The last student I taught, Wang, came with his parents. I learned their home is in Deyang–nearer to the quake epicenter. They had many stories of the devastation in their town and personally knew 25 people that had perished. Their home survived but one‑half of their turbine factory was flattened. As many Chinese, they have given a lot of money to help those suffering.

The meal was incredible. We went to a mushroom restaurant for dinner. I love Sichuan food but I had never been to a mushroom restaurant. It rates as one of the finest meals I’ve had in China among many great ones. To my fellow Trillium mycophiles Jody and Alexander, wish you were here for this one. I ate over 20 fabulous mushrooms.

Tomorrow there is more teaching and another banquet with a student and family. Very soon I hope to see incoming SOU student and CMC scholarship winner Qi Wenjun. I have an experienced friend from SCCM that will coach her on the final step of getting a visa.

28 May 2008

Jet lag and iPhones

As you read this Wednesday morning, I’ve just finished Wednesday and I’m preparing for bed. The first sign of the earthquake I have experienced is that Professor Li Yusheng is having me teach students at his apartment rather than at the Conservatory. The practice room building is damaged and many students are still afraid to go inside. Most students including the saxophone orchestra and Brent were practicing or rehearsing there when the May 12th quake struck.

There are several tents erected outside in the practice field. I did teach one fearless student, Yi Lian, in the practice room building and observed a giant crack in the building. It is a structural seam that has separated from the quake. It can be seen from the outside and from the inside. I’ve been in Sichuan for 32 hours and I haven’t felt any aftershocks. According to news reports there have been a few.

I had the morning off and spent it walking off the jetlag. SCCM is very close to the tech retail area. It is full of various districts, each with its own street: printing, personal audio players, mobile phones, large banner printing, mother board, camera, gaming, etc.. Too bad you aren’t here Andrew, your head would spin. I’ve never seen so much camera equipment in my life. Yes, there is even a Mac area, albeit small, and several places selling iPhones. My dilemma‑‑should I sell my iPhone? What will I do on the trip home? How can I watch Dexter? Can I make it two weeks until the new iPhone arrives?

The internet works fairly well on campus. I spoke to both Jody and Terry over Skype. I had a exceptionally “techee” lunch with Tang Di’s father Tang Guangfu. He is a wonderful man with an incredible heart and intellect. I enjoy his company very much but unfortunately he doesn’t speak English and my Mandarin is equally incompetent. So for lunch I put my lap top on the table, contacted Tang Di in Ashland, and had a very long distance, conversational feast. Towards the end of the meal Alexander joined Tang Di for some long distance toasting.

Tomorrow morning I’ll teach Brent’s students and Mr. Li’s in the afternoon.

Here are two photos of the Conservatory
In the close up on the right you can see the split in the building from the earthquake.

27 May 2008

Sichuan snacks

I made it to Beijing mostly uneventfully. It took a while to get a ticket to Chengdu. Several flights including my original one were canceled but I eventually got a ticket. On the flight from San Francisco I sat with an USA Olympic team physician traveling with a small group of 10,000-meter swimmers. They are doing a reconnaissance of Beijing. They showed me pictures of the Olympic facilities and I shared my Beijing guidebook. They hadn’t had much time to prepare for sight seeing.

For those of you in the Siskiyou Saxophone Orchestra that were in the Beijing airport this past October, it has completely changed. It is much larger and more modern resembling the airports in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo or Seoul. It has three large, distinct terminals connected by train. Each has many shops and restaurants. I can’t believe how much has changed in six months. I don’t think I need to avoid flying in to Beijing anymore. The other change is security is much stricter. I assume because of the Olympics. The metal detecting wand was set off by every zipper, button and rivet on my clothing. They also took my tiny bottles of shampoo and conditioner but left my toothpaste, saline and lotion. I guess we aren’t allowed to have hair products.

Tang Guangfu (Tang Di’s father), Professor Li Yusheng and Brent Weber were waiting for me at the Chengdu airport. It was 9:30 at night and after 24 hours of travel I was ready for Sichuan snacks and Snow beer along the river. Tomorrow afternoon I begin teaching.

25 May 2008

Preparing to Leave for China

I leave early tomorrow morning for Beijing. From there I will take a domestic flight to Chengdu. My original plan was to teach 5 days in Chengdu at the Sichuan Conservatory and then 3 days in Beijing at the Central Conservatory. Because of the massive earthquake in Sichuan it is clear that it won't be a normal trip. I'm afraid I may not be able to get to Chengdu. Teaching saxophone is not deemed essential earthquake relief. After talking with Brent last night I was gaining confidence I'd be able to get to Chengdu. This morning I heard on the news of a major after shock, 5.4, and a death from the aftershock. Many citizens of Chengdu are sleeping outside afraid of devastating aftershocks. I will probably talk to China one more time tonight before I leave. I picked up a tent at Costco to deliver to Mr. Li.

John Darling at the Medford Tribune wrote an informative piece published today (click here). Thanks John. A few corrections:
Qi Wenjen plays guitar
Tang's parents are not "homeless." Their home is fine but they are afraid to stay in it.

When I find internet, I'll update this blog. Students, keep studying and practicing while I'm away. I will be!

22 May 2008

Season's Last Siskiyou Saxophone Concert

Last night the Siskiyou Saxophone Orchestra had its last concert for the 2007-2008 season. We had a wonderful year. What this ensemble accomplished in one year is simply amazing. Just a reminder of the highlights: three new compositions added to the saxophone ensemble repertoire--all dedicated to the Siskiyou Saxophone Orchestra, seven original arrangements-- many are being published. That is a lot of premiers for any professional ensemble to do in one season.

Our CD has been a huge hit. So far we have given out 300 with requests for many more. I will try to get another CD together this summer. Our youtube videos have been viewed by thousands of saxophonists and saxophonists all over the world are aware of the Siskiyou Saxophones.

And let's not forget our trip to China. We were invited and financially supported by our hosts. That happens with professional ensembles.

Four students are graduating and will be missed. Jenifer is moving on to the University of Oregon for a Master's in Inter-Media Music Technology. Erin will be entering the Master of Arts in Teaching program at SOU. Andrew has already been hired by the university--smart decision on our part. Travis will be working in the Grants Pass school district. Congratulations to you all.

18 May 2008

Jesse Molloy TV and Radio spot

SOU just released a TV and radio spot featuring former saxophone student and SOU alum Jesse Molloy. Jesse was a dedicated and disciplined student who began taking lessons while attending Ashland high school. In addition to being a fine saxophonist Jesse was always writing creative music. He won the E Mulling award for the most outstanding first year music student in 1999. Jesse has been in many professional groups and continues to pursue a performing career in the San Diego area. Congratulations Jesse--you make me proud!

Click here to watch to the TV spot

17 May 2008

Nick's Recital and report from Brent

Nick Waroff performed a terrific junior recital yesterday afternoon. He played the Creston Sonata with Jodi French, Ryo Noda's Improvisation I, and Descenclos' Prelude, Cadence and Finale with Aaron Blenkush. Sharing the recital was another fine junior recital by Leoni Lanzas. Congratulations to Nick, Leoni and pianist--Jodi, Aaron, Joseph and Laurie.

The last student I had perform the Descenclos was Brent Weber. Now in Chengdu teaching saxophone at the Sichuan Conservatory of Classical Music (SCCM), I had the opportunity to talk to Brent last night. I teach at the Sichuan Conservatory each May. I'm scheduled to visit Chengdu next week--May 27--but with the severe earthquake it is unclear if I can visit Chengdu. The Chinese American Piano Institute (CAPI), hosted by SCCM, was canceled by the director and SOU faculty Alexander Tutunov. The Sichuan Conservatory is damaged, classes haven't resumed yet and many students are heading home. Brent reports that the aftershocks continue still and are making everyone uncomfortable. Many people are living outside afraid to be in a building during an aftershock.

Brent relays that he is safe and his area of the city is doing okay. Life is not back to normal yet and no one knows when SCCM will be safe to return. Their finals are in June. He and friends tried to volunteer to assist in the severely damaged areas of Wenchuan and Beichuan but they are only accepting military and medically trained people currently.

I have many friends in Chengdu and Sichuan Province. I know they are safe but I'm personally very anxious to see them again. I know SOU student from Sichuan, Tang Di, must be experiencing terrible anxiety. He cannot return home. Tang has been staying updated by watching CCTV and talking on the phone with his parents and friends. He was speaking with his parents when the initial earthquake hit. Tang was speaking to a friend closer to the epicenter when a terrifying aftershock occured. He reported hearing glass breaking and people screaming in the background. Everyone's thoughts and sympathies are with you Tang. Come out to see Tang and other SOU students perform in the Saxophone Orchestra Concert Wednesday night at 8PM.

15 May 2008

Earthquake in Sichuan

The only new information I've heard directly is from Wenjun, SOU's incoming music major and CMC scholarship winner. She reports:

Dear professor:

Thank you for you care about my safe.
I am OK now.
When earthquake happened, I was in practice room which is 15th floor. I quickly know what had happened and let other students who in the same floor ran down. Earthquakes shake very heavily, our practice building was leant to one side and have some broken. Everybody feel nervous, some boys and girls cried, I thought it is so danger.

My city Chengdu's people already have begun work. This city luckier than others, because it is so closes with the earthquake center but not have much damage. We will feel danger at night and live out side. I am with my friends now. All in all, my city and I are safe.
Thank you very much!

Best wish;
Wenjun Qi

14 May 2008

Earthquake in Sichuan

Nathan Roberts at the International Office received this yesterday from Chamber Music Concert's scholarship student Wenjun. She was practicing guitar at the Sichuan Conservatory in Chengdu when the earthquake struck.

Dear officer:

Thank you for your office care about my safe.
I am OK now.
When earthquake happened, I was in practise room which is 15th floor. I quickly know what had happend and let other students who in the same floor ran down . Earthquake shake very heavily, our practise building was leant to one side and have some broken. Everybody feel nervous, some boys and girls cried, I thought it is so danger.
I am with my friends now, it is safe.

Best wish;
Wenjun Qi

13 May 2008

Earthquake in Sichuan

A 7.9 earthquake centered in Wenchuan county 55 miles north of Chengdu struck China yesterday May 12. Current SOU student Tang Di is from Yibin, Sichuan and went to school in Chengdu. SOU alum Brent Weber is currently teaching in Chendgu at the Sichuan Conservatory. Incoming SOU student and CMC scholarship student Qi Wenjun is studying at the conservatory. She will arrive in Ashland this fall. Yesterday was one of worry and concern. We finally heard from Professor Li Yusheng and Brent last night. They are okay and Chengdu seems to have been spared the damage of the outlying areas. Our thoughts go out to all who are suffering in Sichuan. I leave for Chengdu in a little over a week. Pictured are SOU students with Sichuan Conservatory students, Mr. Li, Brent Weber, Steve Thorpe and myself.

From Brent Weber:
Nimen hao!

First of all, thank you for your concern regarding the earthquakes in China. Fortunately, I was on street level during the quake and none of my friends of students were injured. I was standing in front of SCCM when the first tremor hit, and felt the ground move for close to 2 minutes. Luckily, the police were very organized, and put us at ease. Now, we're all mourning the losses of the many in Sichuan province and throughout China. Again, thank you for kind wishes and I will relay your concern to my students and friends and co-workers.

Best Wishes,
Brent Weber

From Li Yuseng:
Dear Rhett,
Thank you very much for you e-mail.
Brent, I and my family are well in the quake. Our experience is very dangerous yesterday,but we are safe today.
Power,water and food,traffic as same as usual. I kept in touch with Brent.

Thank again!
Yusheng Li

12 May 2008

May 21st Concert Press Release


For Immediate Release:

Sunday, April 27, 2008

For further information contact:

Colleen Graves, Music Department


Siskiyou Saxophone Orchestra SOAR

ASHLAND, OR. The Southern Oregon University Department of Music presents a session of SOAR–Southern Oregon Arts and Research—with a concert featuring the Siskiyou Saxophone Orchestra on Wednesday, May 21st at 8:00 PM in the SOU Music Recital Hall. This is the inaugural year of a two-day, university-wide celebration of faculty and student research and artistic activity.

The fourteen members of the Siskiyou Saxophone Orchestra (SSO), directed by Dr. Rhett Bender, will showcase the artistic achievements of students and faculty. Featured will be three composition world premieres by Southern Oregon University students: Jenifer Jaseau, DooDeeDu; Travis Moddison, Collisions; and Keith Smelcer, Gimmicky. The orchestra will also perform arrangements of Bach, Copland and Marcello, arranged by SSO members Vicki Purslow, Rhett Bender and Jenifer Jaseau. Dr. Bender will also present a solo performance of Tag! by Eric Stokes.

The Siskiyou Saxophone Orchestra (SSO), under the direction of Dr. Rhett Bender, highlights the unique voices of the entire saxophone family: bass, baritone, tenor, alto, soprano and sopranino. SSO performances showcase styles from classical music favorites, American big band hits, and world music, as well as original pieces written for the SSO. In October the SSO traveled to China, where they performed to crowds of admiring music fans. As the guests of Mercury Saxophones, the SSO performed at the China Music Trade Show in Shanghai and at the northern seaside resort city of Yantai.

The Siskiyou newspaper quotes audience members from a recent concert: “It was wonderful. I really enjoyed myself.” “They were great. It's amazing that saxophones can have such power. I didn't want it to end.” “It was another great event offered by the music department.” For more information about the Siskiyou Saxophone Orchestra, please visit www.sou.edu/music/siskiyousaxophone.

Rhett Bender is an Associate Professor of Music at Southern Oregon University and is sought out internationally as a saxophone artist. He has presented master-classes throughout the United States, Europe, China and Mexico. Bender is a founding member and soprano saxophonist with the Globe Saxophone Quartet and teaches each May at the Sichuan Conservatory of Classical Music in Chengdu, China as artist-in-residence. He is one of the featured saxophonists on AUR’s landmark seven-volume CD set, America’s Millennium Tribute to Adolphe Sax, which was nominated for a Grammy in 2000. Rhett Bender is a Yamaha Performing Artist and clinician. www.sou.edu/music.bender

Tickets for this performance are $8 for general admission and FREE for students. Tickets and season passes may be purchased by calling 541-552-6101 or at the Music Box Office prior to the performance. For more information, please visit Southern Oregon University’s Music Department website at http://www.sou.edu/music.

04 May 2008

Globe Concert in Laramie

The six hours of rehearsal were put to good use last night. The University of Wyoming Day of Saxophone Orchestra played a half-hour pre-concert program followed by a full recital by Globe. I had a lot of fun playing sopranino in the saxophone orchestra. John conducted the group. He is a great conductor and always an inspiration to work with.

We began the Globe recital with a concerto grosso by Handel. Jennifer, Scott and I played the solo parts while John conducted the orchestra. The concert was very well received. After Handel we played Glazunov, Fox, Ulla in Africa, Dvorak, Robert Burn's Suite and finished with Rivier. Keep checking for audio from the concert.

Also attending the concert were my aunt and uncle who live in Laramie and my parents who drove all the way from Iowa--11 hours to see the concert. It was great to see them all.

03 May 2008

Globe Rehearsal in Laramie

After driving through a blizzard on the boarder of Colorado and Wyoming, John and I rolled into Laramie on our rented 4Runner. Globe then crammed an exhausting 3 hours of rehearsing into our evening before a late dinner. Today is Saturday and begins the Wyoming Day of Saxophone. Globe will play a concert tonight so we got up early and began rehearsing again. Because of the distances we are from each other (Georgia, Wyoming and Oregon) rehearsal time is precious. We'll play tonights concert after an intense six hours of rehearsing. Several of the pieces we've never played together.

John is currently rehearsing the saxophone orchestra. They'll give Globe a "pre" concert performance tonight. All prepared in just 2 hours by John.

02 May 2008

Stuck in Denver airport

The spring snow continues to affect travel. I'm supposed to be headed to Laramie, Wyoming with Globe member Scott for the Wyoming Day of Saxophone. Instead, I'm stuck at the Denver airport because I-80 is closed in Wyoming. Once baritone saxophonist John has arrived from Atlanta we'll rent an SUV and head north hoping the road eventually opens. This was supposed to be a half day of travel and then rehearsal. It is looking like it will be more travel than rehearsal. I'm bored so I'm blogging.