A 21 ½-hour flight.
That’s how long it will take for some of UCM’s Concert Choir members to make it to Xi’an (she-an), a city in central China, this summer.
An invitation to perform at the 2019 Xi’an International Choral Festival, July 16-26, came to UCM’s music department after Thanksgiving.
“One of their senior officials sent us the invitation,” said Adam Zrust, director of choral activities.
Zrust says he’s not sure how they heard of UCM — maybe a reference.
“It’s pretty reassuring to know that he (Zrust) is doing quite a lot right with his choral program for news of our chorus to travel all the way to China without us even knowing,” said Tristan Jordan, junior studying sport communication.
Not many universities from the U.S. will be in attendance.
“To my knowledge, we’re one of only three American choirs to be invited,” Zrust said.
Zrust told students about the opportunity before they let out for winter break. While no numbers are set in stone, Zrust anticipates 30 students will be going on the trip.
Michelle Forge-Jackson, vocal music education major, said she can’t wait to go.
“I was immediately very excited to get to have this experience with so many amazing classmates,” she said. “Additionally, I was very excited to get to see other choirs from around the world.”
Choir members were excited about the trip but the cost may limit who could go.
“Being a college student getting ready to student teach, I knew that finances played a big role in my decision,” Forge-Jackson said. “It took around a month for me to come to terms with myself that I wanted to pay the money to get the chance of a lifetime.”
During their time in China the group will have a few primary jobs.
“Our responsibilities while we are there is to be part of the opening and closing ceremonies, and we’ll provide music for that. As well as, I believe, two 50-minute concerts, which is probably the biggest portion of what we’ll be doing,” Zrust said. “We’ll also do a couple of workshops with Chinese choral directors.”
Zrust said the choir will be learning 12-15 new pieces, which adds up to about 25 hours of additional rehearsals.
“Our schedule this semester is pretty packed with other stuff so we don’t have a whole lot of time,” Zrust said.
The group will do a few rehearsals this semester and meet more regularly in the summer.
“It’ll probably be mostly American music and our different representative genres. I haven’t finished programming yet,” Zrust said. “Maybe a couple jazz tunes. We’ll probably do some spirituals, some contemporary American composers that are currently living.”
Zrust’s intention is to focus primarily on fun, upbeat music because he said that’s ultimately what they want to hear.
When the students aren’t performing or in workshops they will be touring. Part of their tour takes them through Beijing.
While both Jordan and Forge Jackson have toured with previous choirs, neither have performed overseas.
“I am looking forward to being immersed in another culture and trying new things whether it be the food, different excursions, or something I’m not at all expecting,” Jordan said. “I am just pumped for the unexpected.”
The feeling seems mutual between Zrust and the students.
“Being picked to perform at this conference is a wonderful opportunity and is going to be something our choir can remember for a long time,” Forge-Jackson said.
This trip has the ability to challenge the students as artists and help them grow as individuals.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the students to experience a new culture and it’s an incredible honor to be invited to perform at an international choral festival,” Zrust said. “I know that our students are going to represent the university and UCM music very well.”