Trinity choral students sing, travel in China for spring break
by Jeremy Gerlach
Surrounded by hundreds of listeners who didn’t speak English, Emma Lucero ’18 made a connection with her audience using a more universal language: music.
Lucero, a communication major at Trinity University who also sings with the Trinity Chamber Singers, was one of eight Tigers who traveled to China over spring break to perform for Chinese students. The trip, organized by music professors Chia-Wei Lee and Gary Seighman and funded by support from the Dickson-Allen Foundation, brought the worlds of Chinese and American music into close contact.
“When you sing, you feel a connection with the people you sing with,” Lucero says, “And you feel a connection with the audience.”
The Trinity group, which included Odet Torres ’20, Amanda Chin ’20, Melanie Vaughan ’20, Griffin Gaedke ’20, Jordan Koeller ’19, Hunter Wilkins ’18, and Jonathan Maislin ’18, visited the Sichuan Vocational College of Culture and Communication and Nanchong Vocational and Technical College, along with several arts-specialized high schools. At each venue, the team performed a mix of spirituals and folk music. This repertoire, even with lyrics unfamiliar to Chinese audiences, was still a hit, says Maislin.
“Not everybody spoke English, but you could feel everybody connecting to our rhythm and our voices,” Maislin says. “This opportunity was so crazy, so surreal.”
Having the opportunity to sing in China was an unexpected one for Maislin and Lucero, who have both been musically-inclined since childhood. But for Lucero, being able to sing–period–at Trinity was a surprise unto itself.
“When I first came to Trinity, I realized I wanted to follow a career in something other than music,” Lucero says. “But I came here to Trinity because the University allowed me to do whatever I wanted, with whatever major I wanted, while I also still got to be in choir. I got to keep music as a huge part of my life without being a music major.”
And while music was a huge part of the trip to China, Lucero and Maislin say the group got to experience the culture and friendliness of the Chinese people off-stage, too.
“This was non-stop action, pretty much from the moment we got off the plane in Hong Kong,” Maislin laughs. “Dr. Lee told us people were going to want to take pictures of us, and sure enough, each place we went to perform, everybody was rushing to the stage afterwards, asking us to take photos with them.”
Lucero loved hitting the crowded street markets of the Sichuan Province, an area of 81 million people in central China where the group spent most of its time.
“Just being out in the streets, in these crowded markets, you’re immersed in the culture,” Lucero says. “Fun to be surrounded by locals, selling food, tea, clothing–everything that makes China so amazing.”
It was the kind of “spontaneous opportunity,” that makes Trinity unique, Lucero says..
“Trinity has given me all these awesome experiences that I didn’t expect to have while I was here,” she says. “In 2017, I just happened to take an opera workshop with Dr. Lee, and all of a sudden, here he was just a few months later, writing me an email with an offer to come on this trip for spring break.”
For Maislin, a member of Trinity’s a cappella group, the Trinitones, the trip did present one missed opportunity:
“We didn’t get into any a cappella, Pitch Perfect-style battles there,” he laughs. “But if we had more of the Trinitones there … maybe it would have happened.”
Jeremy Gerlach is Trinity University's brand journalist. Find him on Twitter @JT_Gerlach or email him at jgerlach [at] trinity.edu.