Violins take three to China
Alaina Beatty, Meredith Lumberg and Gwen Ying, all of Washington, toured China for 10 days in June. Alaina and Meredith are violin students of Ying and they are members of the Preucil School of Music Symphony Orchestra (PSSO) of Iowa City, where Ying also teaches.
Alaina, who will soon be a senior at Iowa Mennonite School, is the daughter of Mark and Susan Beatty of Washington. Meredith is the daughter of Scott and Tori Lumberg and will be a junior at Washington High School.
“I was really excited,” Alaina said about the trip. “At first I didn’t really want to go because I didn’t know anybody except for Meredith, but after we got there, I was pretty excited.”
Meredith said she was excited, as well.
“They gave us four options,” she said, “and, of course, I picked China because I didn’t think I would ever have an opportunity to go there myself.”
The other three choices were trips to Montreal, New York and San Francisco.
Thirty students and 20 parents were on the trip to China. They spent time in the cities of Beijing, Qinhuangdao and Tianjin. Ying said the PSSO performed in four concerts and they toured many historical sites.
“It was night when we arrived, so there weren’t that many cars or people out,” Meredith said. “But the following day when I woke up — Alaina and I shared a room — we just watched out our window their driving. It was a T intersection that we saw. Nobody waited, nobody stopped and it was so scary and I would have hated to drive there.”
One thing that surprised Alaina was the food.
“The food is really different than the American Chinese food,” she said. “It’s so different. They eat a lot of veggies and stuff. Their dumplings are totally different than we have here.”
One delicacy Alaina skipped was a fish eye. She was told that eating a fish eye brings good luck. Some of the other student musicians did eat a fish eye. Gwen thinks the fish eye bringing good luck is a myth.
Alaina said that at one of the concerts, the orchestra played for the First Lady of China, Peng Li Yuan, the wife of Shi Jing Ping, China’s president.
“We didn’t know that until we got there,” she said, “so we were all really excited.”
That concert was at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. They also performed at the Great Wall of China, the Beidaihe Workers’ Theatre in Qinhuangdao, and the University Arts Performing Hall of Tianjin University.
Performing at the Great Wall was important for both Alaina and Meredith. Alaina described it as “fun.”
“I thought visiting the Great Wall was a really good experience to have, especially at my age,” Meredith said. “It was not easy, but I walked as far as I could and seeing the view was crazy and the pictures from there were really amazing. The part that we walked up was very steep and a lot of the steps were crooked.”
Alaina said there weren’t a lot of English-speaking Chinese, “but they took lots of pictures of us Americans. We were like famous, man.”
Meredith said, “It was really cool seeing how many people stopped just to listen to us.”
“I think you children did just wonderful,” Gwen said. “They were so flexible.”
She said that the orchestra received a letter from Preucil school director Sonja Zeithamel, who said she was proud of the students. She also said the students were wonderful youth ambassadors for the Preucil School of Music, the state of Iowa and the United States.
“It was a very nice letter,” Gwen said. “It was a great experience.”
Gwen teaches violin in her studio in Washington, where she lives, and at the Preucil School of Music in Iowa City.