August 16 marked the signing of agreements several months in the making, as delegates from China’s Shenyang Conservatory of Music visited McNally Smith College of Music to finalize plans between the two institutions. McNally Smith President Harry Chalmiers had been communicating with leadership of Shenyang Conservatory of Music (S.C.M.) to forge a cultural exchange, centered on McNally Smith’s Hip-Hop Studies program, the first of its kind in the country. A group from McNally Smith, including Chalmiers, Admissions staff, other administrators, and representatives from the Hip-Hop Studies department (notably Program Coordinator Toki Wright and faculty member Sean McPherson, both of whom are also active in the local hip-hop scene), visited Shenyang at the start of this year to begin the exchange.
Visiting McNally Smith College of Music this week were 14 Chinese students, as well as educators and administrators from S.C.M. They were welcomed with a concert highlighting the Hip-Hop department of McNally Smith, including performances by Wright, Big Quarters (Zach and Brandon Bagaason), and other Hip-Hop faculty and students. Gao Zhongyue, a vice president at Shenyang, described the conservatory’s interest in hip-hop, describing it as “music that speaks to the young generation right now… [Hip-hop] is very popular in China, so we came here to find out how we can teach it and serve our students.”
Though the number of S.C.M. students who will join the first wave of those studying hip-hop at McNally Smith has yet to be determined, the conservatory hopes to begin sending students as soon as the Spring 2012 semester. In addition, Shenyang’s long-term plans include launching its own hip-hop program to fully integrate the style of music in a Chinese cultural context. However, Zhongyue detailed the necessity to first engage in a cross-cultural exchange with McNally Smith, saying after the hip-hop concert, “We can now see: They are experts at this.”
You can view more photos from the day’s event at the McNally Smith Flickr.
- Star Tribune: “China’s newest import: Minnesota hip-hop”
- MPR: “China looks to model hip-hop program at St. Paul college”
Older: Chinese Officials from Shenyang in St. Paul August 16 to Finalize Historic Exchange