Oboe Player Featured In San Diego Youth Symphony Documentary
Film captures the symphony's trip to China this past summer
You are listening to Midday Edition on KPBS and I'm Tom Fudge. On New Year's Day at 11:00 p.m. KPBS TB will show the documentary San Diego Youth Symphony's "Road to China". The group took the road to China this past summer and performed in three cities. The tour included a performance and the Forbidden City concert Hall in Beijing and a special July 4 concert in Shanghai . Joining us now in the studio to talk about the adventure in China and about the San Diego Youth Symphony are two people who went on the China trip. Wade Sherman is external relations director for the San Diego Youth Symphony and oversaw the production of the film, "Road to China" and thanks for coming in. Good morning and thanks for having us. Laura Gilmore also joins me cheese principal oboist with the same being the -- San Diego Youth Symphony. Wade, had the San Diego Youth Symphony been to China before? Yes we toured China in 1981. This was a special return and there were some very historic and significant moments in 1981 including a broadcast via satellite of one of our performances back to the United States which was the very first live arts performance broadcast out of China. 1981 was a while at the goal and I suppose our relations with China are not quite what they are today. Let's talk about the latest China trip in the comer. How did this come about and what made it happen? We wanted to do something very special to celebrate our 70th anniversary. There were driving forces behind the tour. It had a lot to do with the vision of one of our board members named June showman whose very involved in the San Diego friendship society and created some very special relationships and Yantai and we were invited by the government to perform. We book ended the tour with other invitations as well. It was all born out of her vision and a special invitation from the antigovernment. We were there is an official government of the anti-friendship society. It sounds like you got financial help from a San Francisco company? We were blessed with support from Qualcomm Incorporated who was our sponsor and could not have done it without them. The undertaking was quite large and total cost was well over $500,000. Laura, what was it like going to China? The first thing we noticed when we went to the airport was that pedestrians yield to traffic, not the other way around like it is in the United States. It sounds like in China that's a good idea to not run in front of traffic. Another thing we noticed was the food. There is a lot of different kind of food that we don't always see an America. For example, my favorite new vegetable is called bok choy. We also got to eat a lot of different kinds of steamed dumplings which were delicious. I really miss them. You have never been to China before right? No. I've never even traveled outside the United States before. It was very interesting. I was homesick for a little bit but the whole experience was so amazing that it made it worth it. China is pretty crowded with people right? Yes. There are a lot of people. Wade, the movie "Road to China" how did that come about and whose idea was it? We read an article about Dr. Tim Powell who is a professor at San Diego State University work he did with other arts organizations in town. My boss our President and CEO Dalouge Smith to see if he would document our trip and long story short he was. He got a grant to bring 2 students from the film department with them. We had a wonderful crew and great documentary that we're looking forward to sharing with the community on January 1. January 1 at 11:00 on KPBS TB. You feel the meeting of the trip was diplomatic. Yes. Musical, but also diplomatic. We wanted to share a common bond with people in China. Music is a universal language. Our message was one of goodwill and camaraderie. There was something to Yantai's motivation and they wanted to start a youth symphony of their own. Since we have been around for 70 years and they are just getting started with their program, they wanted to see after 70 years of practice and dedication, what a youth symphony can sound like. We were pleased to show them an aspirational model of what they can become 70 years from now. Where is the anti-? It's on the yellow Sea of eastern China. It's very interesting that Yantai is our Sister City and there is great commonalities down to a love of horse racing, wineries, and beautiful seaside and coastline vistas and views. It was very enjoyable. My guests are Wade Sherman and Laura Gilmore. Laura is an oboist with the San Diego Youth Symphony and Wade is the Symphony's external relations director. We're talking about their trip to China and production of the film "Road to China". Laura, you played at least three concerts in China and how did Chinese people respond at concerts? Is it different from your? We noticed they didn't really give standing ovations until the very last concert. We played traditional Chinese folk songs for them and the entire audience was singing with our music. They were also crying and we were crying and it was so cool to see that although we spoke different languages and lived in very different places, music was a force that could bring us together. That's a wonderful story. Wait, what was the Chinese folk song you played? It's a piece that means by the water and it is a song most Chinese young people learn as they are growing up. It has a similar meaning or significance to somewhere over the rainbow or this land is your land in the United States. It's a song about home, longing, where I came from and wanting to return. China has become a big urban population and some of their cities have as many of 25 million or 30 million people. It's a song about yearning to go back to a home by the sea. The Chinese patrons had never heard it arranged before. Our music director Jeff Edmons did a special arrangement of the song as our gift to the Chinese people. They were very moved by the fact we knew the song and also would arrange it in such a special way with a full 110 piece orchestra. It provided some very emotional moments captured on video and are part of the documentary. I mentioned the fact Laura Gilmore is a principal oboist with the San Diego Youth Symphony and she brought her oboe with her. She will play us a little bit of music. Laura, why don't you go ahead. Let's hear what you have to play. ( music ) That was lovely. Thank you. Laura, tell me what that piece of music is. It's an oboe solo from the second movement of a piece of music called Scheherazade by Korsakoff. That's a nice oboe solo I suppose in the middle of that piece. How did you become an oboe player? My parents had me start out on the piano when I was a little kid. I loved it. I always wanted to try something different and wind interest -- instruments were interesting to me. When I had the opportunity and middle school to take a beginning band class, it seemed like the perfect time to try something new. I actually originally wanted to play the tuba -- The tuba! It was huge to be honest. I can't buzz my lips very well and if you want to play the tuba that's a problem. One day my teacher brought in the oboe and I tried it and it sounded like a kazoo. It's probably not the most appealing sound to most people but to me it was. I fell in love with it and thought it looked cool and sounded so different. I just wanted to play it. I think that's the first time I've heard someone compare and oboe to a kazoo, but I like it. In this movie we have been talking about, "Road to China", there is a scene of Chinese kids playing traditional music. There were a couple of drummers, a boy and a girl, who are doing an amazing solo. It made you think about some old-time big-band drummers like Buddy Rich. They were raising the roof. It was very exciting. In addition to 4 very special performances we were treated to great cultural exchange opportunities. The scene you are talking about took place at a conservatory high school in Beijing where our young musicians were treated to a performance by their musicians a more traditional Chinese instruments many of which we had never seen before. They showed a passion and talent for music that was really shared by our musicians as well. It was a great day of bonding and learning about their history and background and instruments that they play. I'm sure Laura could tell you more. It was a special day and proud to share it in the documentary. Laura, do you want to tell us more about your impressions of their music? It was cool to see that we play classical instruments and they play very classical Chinese Eastern style instruments. It was very interesting to see they have the same kind of discipline and passion for the music we do. It reminds me how we were able to connect to the Chinese people through playing our music. We were also able to connect to them by listening to their music. When you look at orchestras in the United States and when you look at San Diego Youth Symphony there are a lot of people that are either of Asian extraction and there are lot of Chinese people who perform classical music and it's tempting to think Western music is taking over China in the east. Would you disagree with that, we'd? Music is music and it's special. I don't know about taking over but what was very unique about our visit was because we are a youth symphony, young people were allowed in the concert halls. This is rare in China. Many young people were seeing a traditional Western orchestra for the first time. We had children standing on chairs and conducting. We had feet tapping and eyes opening and ears opening and minds expanding. Young people were typically allowed in these venues and made exceptions based on the fact that we were a youth orchestra so we were very happy to see that awakening in young Chinese people to traditional Western style classical music in an orchestral setting. And Wade and Laura we would be remiss if we didn't play a little bit of a recording of the San Diego Youth Symphony so we can hear the entire group . We will play just a bit of their performance of Gershwin's Rhapsody in blue. ( music ) That's Rhapsody in blue played by the San Diego youth orchestra. Laura, what is the San Diego youth orchestra nor the kids who play in it? They are some of the most incredible and talented people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting in my life. They are so intelligent and know so much about their lives and the world. They have so much passion and love for what they do. It's really inspiring. To add to that time, San Diego Symphony and observatories based in Balboa Park and we have 10 ensembles insert -- serving 600 students in a hearse every Saturday and Sunday. We serve another 400 students through outreach programs most notably in Chula Vista, we have a community project and also work in other areas where we can suck -- consult in San Marcos. Our vision is to make music education affordable and accessible for all. We serve a broad cross-section of young people and don't turn anyone away based on talent or financial need. We decide where to place them and have various levels from foundational to ovation which is our most advanced ensemble. I know there are quite a few Asian-Americans to play in the youth symphony and you said about one third of the group you would describe as being so, were there any Chinese kids who may have seen some family when you went to China? Yes. There was quite a bit of that. There was a story of a young man who went to China and up province we visited when he was 10 attended San Diego State and was able to go back and see his homeland and where he grew up. His memories were somewhat distant as he left as a very young man. There were many stories of connecting with family, first generation young people going back to China to see the land of their birth and where their parents were born. It was very special. At 11:00 p.m. on January 1, New Year's Day, KPBS TV will show the film documentary San Diego Youth Symphony "Road to China" so put that on your calendar. Today during Midday Edition I've been speaking with Wade Sherman who was external relations director for San Diego Youth Symphony. He oversaw production of the film. Kpbs.org, -- Wade thank you very much and I encourage everybody to see us live on February 13 as well. Laura Gilmore was my other guests and she's principal oboist with San Diego Youth Symphony. Thank you Laura. Thank you so much.
A new film about the San Diego Youth Symphony documents the journey of 100 young performers who traveled to China this past summer to play several venues in Beijing, Shanghai and San Diego's sister city of Yantai. The trip was a celebration of the symphony's 70th year.
Since 1945, thousands of San Diego youngsters have been given the opportunity to learn and perform with the youth symphony, many going on to successful careers in performance, composing and musical education.
Laura Gilmore is a senior at San Dieguito Academy in Encinitas and the San Diego Youth Symphony's principal oboist. She spoke to KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday about the trip to China and her experiences with the symphony.
"We played traditional Chinese folk songs for them and the entire audience was singing with our music," she said. "They were also crying, and we were crying, and it was so cool to see that although we spoke different languages and lived in very different places, music was a force that could bring us together."