EDMOND — UCO music professor Brian Lamb thinks an ongoing cultural exchange between China and Edmond can enhance music programs in both places and should be explored.
He’s convinced of this after a recent trip to Guangzhou, China, where he was an ambassador for the University of Central Oklahoma. He’s still trying to comprehend everything he experienced half a world away.
He was in the urban city in southeast China for an international conference at South China Normal University. It was also the 80th anniversary for South China Normal University, an anniversary with great significance.
“In the Asian culture, 80 is as significant as 100 is with us,” he said.
“It was like an opening ceremonies for an Olympics,” he said. “There were thousands of people in this stadium, cheering.”
Lamb has been at UCO for 13 years. He conducts the wind symphony and teaches conducting and instrumental music education courses. None of that could quite prepare him for the China trip.
“For one thing, Guangzhou is a city of 20 million people, the third-largest city in China,” he said. “They have people living in a 70-story tower, while at the same time, there are cranes above them trying to add even more stories.”
But life goes on under the cranes, and few give them much notice.
“If a crane fell, it might kill a few hundred people,” he said.
Daily life is different from the United States in other ways.
“There are a lot of informal meetings during the day where everyone will sip green tea and talk about how the day is going,” Lamb said. “In China, it’s all about building relationships.”
Lamb was provided translators and transportation.
“They were very accommodating and very gracious,” he said.
Sharing the music
In addition to the conference where he gave a 10-minute speech, he presented a workshop to wind orchestra students at Xinghai Conservatory, a partner institution of the UCO School of Music.
“They have 6,000 music students,” he said. “Many of them are very talented and have great training and a work ethic.”
Lamb said he would like to see them incorporate more passion in their music and concentrate more on ensemble work.
Many Chinese students study English. What they couldn’t understand, he communicated with gestures.
Still, there were challenges. Lamb set out to visit a museum on his own, but his trip was cut short by his lack of grasping the Chinese alphabet.
“I just could not make sense of it,” he said. “I got to the station and couldn’t tell what was north, east, west or south. I quickly decided to head back to the hotel.”
Lamb observed a commitment to family.
“The professors during the day will take off an hour just so they can go home and be with their toddler,” he said.
He said the students asked a lot of questions about American life.
“They are proud of their heritage and probably not too proud about the Chairman Mao era,” he said, noting the late Chinese dictator of the post World War II era.
Despite being away from his wife, Denise, and his children, he valued his time in China.
“I’d go back in a heartbeat,” he said.
He’d like to take UCO music department colleagues as well as students on a second trip.
“It was a wonderful experience, and years from now when I’m in a nursing home I will still remember it vividly,” Lamb said.