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Off to China

May 18, 2009

Off to China

Blending the Chinese tale of Monkey with an original musical composition comes natural for PLU Music Professor Greg Youtz.

The guy is not only a well-respected composer, but learning about and engaging the Chinese culture is a passion of his.

“My head is constantly full of China,” he said about a love of a culture that began nearly 25 years ago and has since included many trips to the country.

Getting a chance to take PLU music students to China is a perfect blend of his passions.

The day after PLU’s Commencement, May 25, a group of 71 – including 64 students – will venture to China for a two week whirlwind tour. The performances will include Youtz’s original composition “The Monkey King,” the tale of the Chinese mythical character Monkey who is smarter than most, but a constant trickster.

The PLU Wind Ensemble and the PLU Jazz Ensemble will perform at the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music, the Xian Conservatory of Music, the Sichuan Conservatory of Music and the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

“They are very prestigious venues,” Youtz said, “and we are really thrilled to be able play there.”

The Sichuan performance will be in dedication to the Earthquake victims in the region – it’s also Washington’s sister province.

Youtz is really looking forward to seeing the reaction of Chinese audiences to the jazz numbers.

Jazz music isn’t really wide-spread in China, he said. There was time it was big in the 1930s and 40s, but revolution ended that because the music was thought of as risqué to say the least.

“Jazz has started to make a resurgence,” Youtz said. “It should be quite a revelation for a lot of people.”

Along with performing the PLU group will get the chance to hold workshops with Chinese musicians. It will be a collective of performing, meeting and building relationships.

“It is some of the work I’m most proud of doing,” Youtz said of helping to foster those relationships between PLU students and Chinese students.