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Nation’s only Hip-Hop Diploma Program Takes Its Mission to China

President Richard M. Nixon formally opened China for the Western world in 1972. Will McNally Smith College of Music officially open up Hip-Hop for Chinese music students in 2011?! A nine-member delegation of college leaders and faculty — including performing Hip-Hop artists/faculty Toki Wright and Sean McPherson (see list below) — have been asked by Shenyang Conservatory in Shenyang, located in the northeast province of Liaoning, to explore a partnership with McNally Smith, one of the United States’ leading music colleges and the nation’s only music college or conservatory with a Hip-Hop Diploma Program, a three-semester offering of Hip-Hop Studies. The two-year old program is approved by the National Association of Schools of Music and has received widespread International attention.

An exchange of McNally faculty and students is also on the table for discussion in Shenyang next week, followed most likely by a visit to the McNally Smith campus in St. Paul by a Chinese delegation from Shenyang Conservatory in February. Meetings and a concert next week at the school will take place at the South Campus of the Conservatory, which has more than 7,000 Students who study traditional Chinese music as well as many modern forms of music and media, dance, film scoring, and more.

According to McNally Smith President, Harry Chalmiers who is leading the delegation, representatives from the conservatory contacted McNally Smith after reading about the Hip-Hop program, knowing its students are very interested in the extremely popular music genre. Successful initial discussions over Thanksgiving in Los Angeles between Xin Ma, President of Shenyang Conservatory, and Chalmiers have now set the stage for the cultural and educational exchange to begin in the next few months of the New Year.

“McNally Smith College of Music is deeply honored that the Shenyang Conservatory has selected our school to be its partner in expanding cultural exchange and establishing friendship between our two countries,” says Chalmiers. “While we have many significant differences in our cultural histories, music is always a common point of understanding and communication between diverse people, and we enter this educational adventure with confidence that our work together will create new collaboration and creative excitement between nations.”

Also making the trip is renowned McNally Smith Faculty member and critically acclaimed performer, violin/fiddle virtuoso Randy Sabien, who will also perform for the Chinese hosts while in country. Others making the journey include:

• Todd Walker, Senior Director of Communications
• Christopher Blood, Dept Head, Music Production
• Adam Erickson, Executive Assistant to the President
• Kathy Hawks, Admissions Director
• Damon Schuler, Vice President of Finance and Operations

Most likely much of the attention abroad, however, will be focused on Hip-Hop artists McPherson and Wright. Wright is McNally Smith’s Hip-Hop Program Coordinator who has been featured on recordings by Atmosphere, C-Rayz Walz. P.O.S. and others. Wright has performed at Scribble Jam, SXSW, Coachella, Bumbershoot, Sons d’Hiver, and Prairie Home Companion and records for the Rhymesayers Entertainment record label, home of Atmosphere, Brother Ali and others.

McPherson, Hip-Hop Faculty member, is the co-founder and bassist of the Twin Cities hip-hop group Heiruspecs and has played numerous national headlining tours, opening for Cake, Ja Rule, Lyrics Born, The White Stripes and many others. Heiruspecs’ music also has been featured on Diddy’s Making His Band and VH1’s “Behind the Music.” McPherson is also the band leader for Dessa, McNally Smith’s Artist in Residence this year who was also a first-year Hip-Hop instructor at the music college in 2009.

“This mission to China could be a wonderful opportunity to enrich our student body with a diverse and talented new pool of students who will bring their cultural influences to our college as well, benefiting our students, our city and region, and potentially even US relations with China,” Chalmiers notes. “Excitement levels are very high at the school among faculty and students.”