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South Dakota college band off to China

Updated: 2015-01-06 12:01
By JACK FREIFELDER in New York (China Daily USA)

South Dakota college band off to China

Members of the Augustana College Band pose for a photo on stage at the school's performance hall, the Washington Pavilion. A group of 60 students left for China this week as part of a 23-day tour of the country. Provided to China Daily.

Students from the Augustana College band in South Dakota are set to travel abroad this week as part of the kickoff of a 23-day, eight concert tour in China.

"We're all really excited to go to China," Amanda Marohl, the band president, told China Daily. "There's always some worries and anxieties, but that goes with experiencing any new country and new culture.

"I won't say we've become experts, but we have been really well prepared by the Augustana faculty," she said. "We know a lot about Chinese history and culture, cultural norms of what is and what's not acceptable, so we have a good grasp on what to expect. Of course, it's going to be way different when we actually get there."

Marohl, a 22-year-old senior from Minnesota, said the length of the trip also gives the band time to gel in a new environment.

Augustana College, a private liberal arts school in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, has sent students to China four times since 1999, according to Brad Heegel, the school's administrative director for the performing and visual arts.

A group of 60 students will travel to China beginning on Tuesday, making stops in seven Chinese cities, including Beijing, Hangzhou, Shanghai and Wuhan.

During the trip the band will perform at several renowned venues, including the Beijing Concert Hall, as well as playing joint concerts with students at Shanghai Jiaotong University and Hubei University, among others.

The group will also take a three-day cruise on the Yangtze River and visit a number of well-known travel sites, including the Forbidden City and the Great Wall.

"In 1999, the Augustana band took its first international tour," Heegel said. "We were neophytes, but we did three Asian countries in three weeks (starting off in Korea, then Japan and China). But China in 1999 is a totally different place than it is now."

Heegel, who is serving as the group's tour director, will be traveling to China with the band for the fourth time.

Augustana College's band normally goes on tour during the school's January break. In 2003 the school decided to take its international trips every four years. The upcoming trip to China will be the school's fifth international tour since 1999. Previous tours included China in 1999, 2003 and 2007, and Egypt in 2011.

"For someone like me, who has been to China consistently since 1999, it's fascinating to see the changes, but we want these kids to be more than just passive tourists, we want them to be immersed," Heegel said. "It's important that when they're investing in this trip that they're getting more than just a sightseeing tour."

Paul Schilf, the director of the Augustana College band, said the students on this trip are acting as ambassadors for the school.

"Right now I'm looking at things a bit through a student's eyes," Schilf said. "No student traveling with the band has been to China before, so the gamut of emotions among the students is vast. But this is going to be a life-changing experience for many of these students."

"We're doing some pure American band music, we're doing a piece called Dragon Boat Festival, so the program I picked is very eclectic and there's something that everybody will find that they will like and enjoy," he said.

Heegel said: "The more time we spend in China, this exchange will increase substantially, and it really has a deep impact on these kids to have this kind of an experience," Heegel said.

Marohl, the band's president, said she is honored to take part in the trip because it is an opportunity she has been looking forward to since the start of her matriculation at Augustana College.

"To be the president and to help to kind of guide the tour, it's just such an incredible opportunity," she said. "Here in the band we have a motto. That motto is: 'We are a family.' We try to create that community to support each other. This trip will be a good opportunity to strengthen that community and family aspect that we try to reach."



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