One Last Post

Thanks everyone for making the URMP an amazingly fun and rewarding experience. Before I sign off, I want to direct you to our new Flickr account, accessible directly through the sidebar on this page. You can also check out Cathy Barbash’s Musical America blog, which features the URMP in its latest post.

And thanks again. It’s been a ride.


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Lugu Camps 2: Xinxing School

Now that we’re all home after a week at Lugu Lake, it’s time to sort through our photos and upload some of the best. The second half of our Lugu project was just as rewarding as the first — two days of teaching at two separate schools, a Muoso school at Wenquan and a predominantly Yi school at Xinxing, both in the mountains behind Lugu Lake. At Xinxing, members of the surrounding village also decided to get involved — you can see a few of them here clapping and dancing with the band. Stay tuned for a Flickr album.

David Choo teaching jazz

David and Olivia teaching music appreciation

Here's me teaching Appalachian folk music

The Airplane!

Los Piratas

Lefei teaching traditional Chinese music

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Lugu Lake madness

We all arrived at Lugu Lake on the night of the fourth, and it’s been a wild ride since. After three full days of instruction, we will be holding an interactive performance at the school tonight before moving on to the second camp. Here are some pictures from the first day:

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In addition to Los Piratas, David and I, there will be four new volunteers at Lugu Lake (admitted, Kelly’s been with us this whole time, but she certainly deserves some screen time).

Here are their bios/pictures.

Kelly Guo

Kelly was born and rised in a small village in Jiamusi City, the fourth largest city in Heilongjiang province. Coming from rual China, she would like to devote her effort to the helping children in poor areas learn about the world of music. She will do coordinating and logistics work at the Lugu Lake music camps.

Lefei Pu

Lefei Pu is a professional pipa player. She works at the Sichuan Arts Theatre in Chengdu. (No picture)

Olivia Kraef

Hailing from Berlin, Germany, Olivia is a citizen of the world and a singing sinologist. She has studied and worked in China for almost 12 years and is currently completing a PhD on Yi (Nuosu) music. At Unity Olivia will be teaching an introduction to music appreciation and theory, focusing on western classical music, jazz, and local folk music.

Grace Park

A graduate student of International Politics at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, Grace’s interest in China began while studying abroad and traveling all over China in 2006. She started piano at age 5 but it wasn’t until she learned guitar for church that she began to appreciate music and musical instruments as a hobby. Grace loves all types of music and this summer, she looks forward to sharing this love with students at the Unity Rural Music Project.


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Guangxi update

Apparently, the flooding in southern Guangxi has reached extreme levels — under a government warning, children are not allowed to travel to school. As a result, we’ve had to cancel the two workshops we had planned in the area for late July. While we’re all disappointed about this turn of events, we’ll be conducting the Lugu Lake camps as planned. I’ll update as soon as I get more information.


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The activities for this summer can be divided into two parts:

–       In the first part of the summer, myself, members of my Afro-Latin band, and our manager Kelly will be cooperating with the Chinese NGO Sunrise Library (they build libraries for rural schools) to put on 1 day Latin music workshops at schools in rural Sichuan, many of which were effected by the Wenchuan Earthquake in 2008.

–       The second part of the summer will take a larger group of volunteers—composed of Chinese and Western educators and musicians—to 4 schools in remote Lugu Lake and Guangxi province, where we will put on multi-day music camps, donate materials, and work with local teachers to build music programs.

Below is a flyer that friends from the Chengdu-based foundation Bit by Bit helped us make for the summer.

– David

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Below is a personal narrative about the beginnings of the project that I was asked to write for a documentary we are filming. The tone of the piece is better for a voice-over in a film, but this will do for now.

The seed of this project was planted while I was living in the Chinese countryside—in a place called Village #10 in Luoxi Township, Sichuan Province.

It was a research grant that brought me there. I was learning about how the mass migration of young people from the countryside to cities—what many call the largest-scale movement of human beings in history– affects rural life. My village was typical, what the Chinese call a 386199 village. 386199 refers to three holidays celebrated in China: 3-8, or March 8th is International Woman’s Day; June 1st is International Children’s Day; and September 9th is Double Ninth Festival, a festival for caring for the elderly. A 386199 village refers to place where most people have gone to work temporary jobs in the cities, and only the elderly, the young, and some women stay behind.

In my village, most kids were bored and uninspired. The cities drained out many capable teachers and role models, and many talented children had no way of developing their interests and skills. Extracurricular activities are almost non-existent in the community I lived in, which helps fuel a drug and violence problems.

The initial idea for this project came from the people of #10 Village. Everyone there knew I was a musician— and my friends were always asking me to play music with their kids. Eventually, local school officials asked if I would be interested in holding a music camp at the elementary school and maybe even help them start a music class.

As I started organizing this camp, many of my friends offered their help—this includes many members of the Afro-Latin band I play with in the USA, who decided to come to China this summer and volunteer.

Once we gained a clearer picture of what it was going to look like, more schools and organizations became interested in participating. The project expanded quicker than I thought it ever would. My friend Jon Kaiman helped me find a school in Lugu Lake that was interested in a music camp and starting a music class; the Chengdu YMCA helped arrange activities at a school they work with; the Chinese NGO Sunrise Library connected me with six of their schools. By the end, my friends and I were putting on 10 events at different schools in rural China.  After raising some money by asking family, friends, NGOs and playing benefit shows with my band, the Unity Rural Music Project was ready to get started.

The family I stayed with in #10 Village

– David

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