China's first lady visits Juilliard School

China's first lady visits Juilliard School
PHOTO: China Daily/ANN

China's first lady Peng Liyuan, who was a renowned singer, visited the Juilliard School, one of the world's pre-eminent performing arts conservatories, on Monday morning.

Juilliard students and faculty welcomed her with five music, dance and drama performances, what Juilliard President Joseph Polisi called "a glimpse" of Juilliard education.

The show ended with Liv Redpath, a master's of music soprano, singing the Yunnan folk song Xiao He Liu Shui (Flowing River).

Redpath practiced for weeks with help from her Chinese peer, Jia Fan, and came across the first lady's recording of the song before knowing she would perform it for her.

Peng cheered Redpath, and coached her on a few lines with singing rather words. "She is an artist," said Polisi of the first lady after the visit. "You can see how involved she was."

Without an interpreter they understood each, he said. "As soon as you don't need a translator, a lot of walls come down."

"It was so nice to relate to another artist. She knows what it's like to perform, so she's more compassionate and understanding," said Redpath.

After the performances, Polisi made an announcement that he had been saving for the special day: Juilliard will open its first campus outside New York in Tianjin, China.

Peng and Posili unveiled the name of the new branch: The Tianjin Juilliard School.

The new school is expected to open in 2018 in a new facility at the Yujia Pu district, where the city of Tianjin is planning to develop the area into a finance, innovation and cultural hub, like "the next Pudong of Shanghai," said Polisi.

Years ago the Julliard board decided that the school should evolve from a school with many international students at its New York campus to a global school with an expanded footprint, providing educational activities and performances to the world.

Seeking opportunities in China, Brazil and Mexico at the same time, Juilliard was welcomed immediately in China.

The city of Tianjin approached Juilliard in 2011 and offered very supportive conditions and partnerships, so Juilliard joined hands with the Tianjin Conservatory of Music, the Tianjin Binhai New Area CBD Administrative Commission and the Tianjin Innovative Finance Investment Company (TIFI) for the new project.

"[Tianjin] gives us a great deal of freedom to create what've been called an authentic Juilliard experience," said Polisi.

It will be the first US music school offering a US-accredited master's degree in China.

The branch will offer a master of music degree in orchestral performance, chamber music performance and collaborative piano - a decision based on research Juilliard has done on the desires of music students in China.

There will also be pre-college, instrumental training and adult education programs. The school also plans a space called Juilliard Imagination, a display area where visitors can go and experience the art of music, dance and drama digitally.

Like the Juilliard School in New York, the Tianjin Juilliard School will constantly hold public performances and exhibits.

To achieve the "authentic Juilliard experience", current faculty in New York will be going to Tianjin on a rotating basis for workshops, special projects, presentations and recitals.

The school will build a new international faculty for the branch, which will include some of its alumni from China and elsewhere.

The Juilliard School has enrolled students from China since the 1920s.

Today, there are nearly 300 pre-college and college alumni from Greater China, and there are more than 80 Chinese students enrolled at the Juilliard college and pre-college programs in New York.

Shen Yiwen, a Shanghai-born composer who is pursuing his doctoral degree at Juilliard in New York, was commissioned by the National Ballet of China to compose for a full-length ballet, Crane Whisperer. It premiered in Beijing from Sept 23-26.

"Artist as a citizen" is a phrase known to every Juilliard student. Shen said performing his work in China and educating the Chinese audience is his mission, and he said he has seen very positive change in the past years.

"After the Beijing Forum on Literature and Art held last October, definitely I see more and more original works to be commissioned and to be performed.

Not only music composition, but also operas, ballets, dances, dramas," he said.

Polisi also spoke highly of the music environment in China.

"There is a much deeper respect and understanding of Western art and music in China than some places in the United States. Quite honestly. Absolutely," he said.

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