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Students learn about Chinese culture through music

Matt Lutze 15 center looks as Eric Zhong 15  tries figure out how play Dizi during GreLakes Confucius Institute

Matt Lutze, 15, center, looks on as Eric Zhong, 15, tries to figure out how to play a Dizi during the Great Lakes Confucius Institute Music Festival at Valparaiso Univeristy Thursday Oct. 13, 2011. Fellow Chesterton high school classmate Remy Hoang is at left. The Dizi is a chinese bamboo flute-like instrument.j | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 16, 2011 3:34PM



VALPARAISO — Normally, Asher Henderson, a freshman at Thea Bowman Leadership Academy in Gary, plays the French horn.

Thursday morning, she demonstrated the zhongruan, a Chinese string instrument shaped like an odd banjo. Henderson, 16, has been playing the instrument for three years, through a partnership with Valparaiso University’s Confucius Institute and Thea Bowman.

She participated in the fourth Great Lakes Confucius Institute Music Festival by showing off the zhongruan’s twang for high school students from six area schools.

“I’ve always been interested in the Chinese culture and to play this is an opportunity for me to get involved with it,” she said.

Almost 330 students from Indiana and Michigan took part in the festival, which included demonstrations of six traditional Chinese instruments, an orchestra clinic, master classes, and was to conclude with a concert Thursday evening in the Chapel of the Resurrection.

The West Lake Performing Troupe from Zhejiang Media University in China provided the demonstrations and clinics. In all, 25 members of the troupe, including dancers, vocalists and instrumentalists, came for the festival, said Jianyun Meng, the Confucius Institute’s director.

The troupe’s visit also included performances at Purdue University-West Lafayette, Culver Academy, Thea Bowman, Ivy Tech in Valparaiso and DePaul University in Chicago.

High school students also learned about the erhu, a high-pitched, two-string fiddle, and the yanqin, which is similar to a dulcimer, among other instruments.

“It’s a really good experience. We get to learn about another culture and music we don’t normally hear,” said Nicole Ndeto, 17, a junior at Clay High School in South Bend.

The festival, Jianyun said, provides a positive experience for everyone who is involved with it.

The high school students “have a chance to be exposed to Chinese instruments and music,” he said, broadening their horizons through music education in action. “Through music, you can communicate. Music is a universal language.”

The students also have the opportunity to develop an interest in Chinese music and culture, and to learn more about VU, he added.



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