News / USA

Unlikely Pair Find Solace in Traditional Chinese Music

Elizabeth Lee

A Chinese musical program near Oakland, California's Chinatown has been offering a safe haven for children of working class Chinese American families.  It's a place where students can spend free time learning a skill from traditional Chinese music and instruments.  While most of the students are of Chinese descent, two are not.  But they have stood out among their peers.

Near Oakland's Chinatown, this youth orchestra is a place where Chinese children can get in touch with their roots and learn a unique skill.

It's also a safe haven for students who would otherwise have nothing else to do when school is out, says music professor Sherlyn Chew.

"A lot of our students are what you called latch key children where the parents work long hours at restaurants," said Chew.

In this sea of Chinese faces, there are two students who at first, don't seem to belong.

Alejandro Chavez and Tyler Thompson are not Chinese and don't even speak the language.  But they have become key players in this orchestra. Chew was their music teacher when they were just four and five years old.  She saw something special in them.

"Music for all students should be fun, but it is a discipline you have to practice. Both of them were willing to do that," Chew explained.

Tyler Thompson attended a school near his mother's workplace in Oakland's Chinatown where he learned songs in Chinese from Chew.

"One day he said to me he said 'you know my mother comes home from work very tired and I would sing her the song you taught me and I'm able to make her feel better.' And I said what a nice kid," added Chew.

Chew also discovered that Thompson had a gift for singing Chinese opera.

"It was a challenge to me at first to actually understand it," Thompson recalled.

Thompson says it was also hard for some of his Chinese classmates to understand why he wanted to sing Chinese opera.

"I didn't see any problem with it but they did, and I know it would probably be the same, vice versa, if I heard one Asian sing really old school R&B songs.   I would just be 'what would you know about that?'" Thompson added.

But there were also classmates who accepted him more because he wanted to learn about their culture.  

Alejandro Chavez has also excelled ever since Chew discovered him in a predominately Latino school 10 years ago.  He plays an ancient Chinese instrument called the Sheng.

"Just being able to say I play an instrument from ancient China, I have history in my hands," said Chavez.

Chavez says being part of the orchestra has opened his mind.

"Well it's taught me not to be Latinos here, white people here, so mixed together. It's really changed my life really," Chavez noted.  "Cause if I weren't here where would I be?"

Chew says she hopes all her students will learn to appreciate not just the music, but each other and carry the life lessons they have learned beyond this orchestra.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid