News / USA

Unlikely Pair Find Solace in Traditional Chinese Music

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid