MHS Jazz Band to China: a Student’s Perspective

The jazz band is going to China.

Medfield’s nationally acclaimed jazz band has recently released an exciting announcement: this time it’s not a new award, but rather a tremendous honor. The jazz band is off to China!

During April vacation, jazz band director Mr. Douglas Olsen will be chaperoning a small group of students on a journey to China. The musical ambassadors will be traveling, instruments in tow, to the nation’s east coast and the cities of Shanghai, Beijing, and Bengbu. Along with visiting landmarks like the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, and the Ming tombs, student musicians will interact with their peers from MHS’ sister school in Bengbu. A home stay will also be included for a complete cultural immersion experience.

Discussion with several teens set to go on the trip introduced interest in the next big step for the music program. Trombonist Christina Rankin is especially eager to work with the Chinese students, teaching them the lively rhythms of American jazz. “I would like to see how music can connect us where the language divides us,” Rankin said.

Also a junior at MHS, percussionist Jake Lester looks forward to learning from his peers. “It will be great to be able to teach [the Chinese students], and then learn from them at the same time,” he said.

The parents and families of the young travelers will also be impacted. After all, they will be sending their kids across the world for more than a week. In an interview, Rankin mentioned that her mother and father often use the trip as an incentive for privileges and excellence in schoolwork.

Students have already begun actively preparing for their journey. To help alleviate the expense of airfare, food, and lodging, the musicians and “jazz band moms” (as nicknamed by Lester) have planned numerous fundraisers. Among these ideas are the annual Christmas wreath sale, a second Swing Dance at the Phaff Center, and several gigs. Recordings of Medfield Jazz in concert are also for sale. To get ready for the linguistic and cultural aspects of visiting a different country, kids have signed up for basic conversational Mandarin classes outside of school. Mr. Olsen also said that the group plans to Skype with their new friends across the Atlantic.

While the jazz band practices their “nǐ hǎos” and proper chopstick etiquette, their peers at MHS eagerly anticipate the stories that they will return with. In a closing statement, Mr. Olsen analogized the unique improvisation of American jazz to the cultural immersion that the students will experience as “an opportunity [for them] to grow as individual musicians.”

This article was written by Emily Monac, a Medfield High School student and member of the student newspaper, The Kingsbury Chronicle. The piece is part of Medfield Patch's weekly series, "Warrior Weekly," helping provide information about MHS to the local community.


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