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The sound of global connections

Updated: 2024-05-27 07:35 ( China Daily )
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Beitong Liu plays the erhu at The Sound of Spring Chinese New Year Concert at Lincoln Center, New York, in 2023. CHINA DAILY

"I was influenced by that event and decided to become a conductor to bridge together cultures," says Cai, who received his early musical training in China. He began his professional conducting career with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and has collaborated with numerous orchestras across North America and Asia. In 2004, he joined the Stanford University faculty as the director of orchestral studies, where he conducted the Stanford Symphony Orchestra for 11 years.

When Cai began learning music, his influences were figures such as Herbert von Karajan, Seiji Ozawa and Leonard Bernstein — Cai even studied under Bernstein. "Their inspiration for me was unimaginable," says Cai.

"Now, I've become a teacher at their age. If I can pass on what I've learned to the next generation and bring the two countries closer together through music, I believe it will be incredibly meaningful," says Cai, calling himself a member of a generation of Chinese musicians who benefited from good US-China relationships.

"Due to China's openness, more Western music has come to China. I think one of the most meaningful things we can do is introduce the elements of Chinese music to composers around the world. I hope this continues, with more non-Chinese people learning Chinese music and about the instruments," Cai says.

Kendall Griffith is a student at Bard College majoring in both the pipa, a four-stringed Chinese lute, and Asian studies. Born and raised in Boston, Griffith's journey into Chinese culture started nine years ago, when she began learning Chinese for its writing system and tones.

While learning Chinese, she was captivated by traditional Chinese music in a drama she was watching. Griffith did some research and discovered that the instrument she was drawn to was the pipa.

"I like the sound of the pipa, especially the techniques that are incorporated with it," Griffith says, adding that her parents and friends have been very supportive of her learning Chinese traditional music.

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