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Chinese Music Ensemble

Lucy carries her love for Chinese music from continents away and reconnects with her cultural heritage at Carleton through the Chinese Music Ensemble.

Lucy carries her love for Chinese music from continents away and reconnects with her cultural heritage at Carleton through the Chinese Music Ensemble.

I am a liuqin player.

Now you might be like, “what is that?” If you can picture a traditional Chinese instrument shaped like a mandolin then you’re close enough. If you know Chinese instruments then a liuqin looks like a mini pipa and has higher pitches.

Before coming to Carleton, I had already played liuqin for several years. And, in my college research — which mainly included small liberal arts colleges — I found many choirs, bands, and chamber music groups but Carleton was unique in having a Chinese Music Ensemble.

I marveled at the idea of being able to continue my Chinese music at Carleton as the music ensemble speaks to my Chinese heritage. Ultimately, the ensemble was one of the primary reasons why I chose to apply. Also, during my application process, I learned that Carleton gives prospective students the opportunity to submit an optional arts supplement to show case their strengths as a candidate the arts.

with my ensemble director Gao Hong
Me with my ensemble director Gao Hong

The first time I went to rehearsal at Carleton, I was surprised to find the director, Gao Hong, friendly and approachable. We call her Gao Laoshi, a more common Chinese way to refer to a professor or teacher. Rehearsal itself was also different than I pictured it would be. She was so nice and treated us like her own children: with care, love, and support. Different from my other ensemble experiences, my Carleton Chinese music experience has been fun and adventurous; we “crash and learn.”

Believe it or not, we learn, practice, and perform our pieces in just 7-8 weeks — our concerts are near the end of week 8 — which is only about 10 hours of time together as a group.

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during our weekly rehearsal

I find the 90 minute rehearsals to very good ways to decompress. The music is beautiful and playing with others helps get my mind off of whatever other stress I might have. During rehearsals, Gao Laoshi jokes around with us and makes the time go by so much faster. Outside of rehearsal, she is happy to grab a meal together with you at the dining hall or just have a nice chat!

The best parts are our concerts at the end of each term in Kracum Performance Hall, located in the Weitz Center for Creativity. We typically play 2-3 pieces as an ensemble together and the rest of the concert features student solos. At the end of each concert, Gao Laoshi treats us to some of her best home made noodles and what she likes to call “devil eggs,” a type of hard boiled egg served with some of her home made chili sauce.

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Joint concert with amazing guest artists Chen Xiangyang and Cao Dewei

The current pandemic has made playing music together hard.

While we did not have an in-person concert this spring term, the pandemic certainly did not stop the Chinese Music Ensemble from performing some beautiful pieces of Chinese music. This past remote term, the members of the ensemble recorded their own parts and they were edited together. Make sure to check out our videos!

Lucy is a rising junior who studies biology and Cinema and Media Studies (CAMS). Growing up in China, US, UK, and Germany, Lucy has found herself a new home at Carleton. Lucy loves music and is a huge animal enthusiast. She sings in acapella and is a liuqin player of the Chinese music ensemble. Lucy dreams to make wonderful nature documentaries like Our Planet one day. Outside of classes you will sure find her busy capturing animals all over campus! Meet the other bloggers!