Youth band bridges cultures

Updated: 2014-08-05 10:42

By Jack Freifelder in Staten Island, NY (China Daily USA)

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The setting may have been a high school, but for the students participating in the US-China Youth International Culture Festival, the event had a global perspective.

Nearly 200 Chinese and more than 100 US high school students met at Tottenville High School in Staten Island, New York on Monday to begin a week-long exchange program designed to deepen friendship between teens from China and the US and enhance Sino-American educational and cultural exchanges.

The Sino-American Culture and Arts Foundation (SACAF) presented the festival, billed as New York City's largest US-China student cultural exchange event.

 Youth band bridges cultures

The "Marching Pirates" band of Tottenville High School on Staten Island, New York, plays host to a group of 200 high and middle school students visiting from China as part of a cultural exchange program organized by the Sino-American Culture and Arts Foundation on Monday. Jack Freifelder / China Daily

Li Li, president of SACAF, said that some of the students on this year's exchange were very excited when they found out they were visiting with a local marching band.

"On the way here a few students were asking what we were going to be doing, and I said no I want it to be a surprise," Li said Monday in an interview with China Daily. "They really appreciate it and their applause definitely showed their excitement."

Li said the event was educational in a fun way.

The US and Chinese national anthems were played and the Tottenville High School Marching Band performed. They also had special performances by visiting students from China, followed by an interactive communication on culture and education.

Li said music provides a good point of access "for everyone".

"Something with entertainment, something with culture, that makes it easy for everyone to open up," she said. "Rather than just having to talk, this is a fun way to connect everybody."

David LaMorte, assistant principal of visual performing and career arts and director of the Tottenville High School Marching Band, said: "Music is the universal language of the world and every student knows music. Because it's a universal language everyone speaks it, and that makes it easier to interact and build relationships.

"In the US we don't have school in the summer, but our band gets together in the summer to get ready in the fall and we come at night to rehearse," LaMorte told the group in welcoming remarks. "You guys are very good friends and we're glad you're here today to celebrate each others' culture."

The event comes amid private and governmental efforts in both countries to expand student exchanges. When first lady Michelle Obama visited China earlier this year, educational exchange was the central theme of her trip.

"Studying abroad isn't just a fun way to spend a semester; it is quickly becoming the key to success in our global economy. It's also about shaping the future of [both] countries and of the world we all share," Obama said in China.

In 2009, President Barack Obama announced the "100,000 Strong" initiative to increase the number of US students studying in China.

SACAF has set up Chinese culture clubs in US east coast cities to promote Chinese culture and encourage cultural and artistic exchanges between American and Chinese youth.

(China Daily USA 08/05/2014 page2)