Tuesday, 10 April 2012 by Tanner Clarke
Spring Break was not much of a break for some UMHB students. This year for Spring Break the UMHB Jazz Ensemble went on its first international tour. The group did a 10-day performance tour of many universities in eastern China.
The ensemble played at six formal concerts to more than 9,000 people. The group, comprised of 19 instrumentalists and one vocalist, played at international colleges in Guilin, Wuhan and Chongqing.
The students were also able to visit each campus' English classes to exchange culture and have a mutual learning experience.
The ensemble is directed by Mils Landsberg, who has been the director of the group since the Fall of 2007. He was able to travel overseas in his undergraduate and graduate studies and wanted the same experience for his students.
"That experience was life changing," he said. "We wanted to provide the opportunity to give our students a global perspective and connect to people through music, regardless of language."
For Lansberg the process of the musicians learning, forming a cohesive group and showing their personalities through music were some of his favorite parts of the experiences.
"Watching the students grow was amazing," he said. "Spending hours together affects the way you play together and the preparation is worth it."
Many of the schools that they visited wanted English students to have a more global view outside of China.
"Inviting our Jazz Ensemble was the first step in completing that mission," Landsberg said. "We are the first western ensemble to ever perform on the campuses."
Many of the students were deeply affected by this trip and like Landsberg said, they were given that global perspective.
"I never really thought that by playing music I could travel halfway across the world," trumpet player Brandon Rodriguez said. "Experiencing the culture and how loving they are, it was a huge blessing to experience it."
Many of the students have learned things beyond music that will go with them for the rest of their lives.
"I've learned to be more appreciative of the people in my life and tell them I love them today even if I'll see them tomorrow," he said. "That is a lot of what the Chinese culture is about."
The trip centered on amazing musicians sharing the gift of music with those in China and the life lessons that the participants came away with is what the trip was really about.