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Tianjin Juilliard brings melodies to more audiences

By ZHANG KUN in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2024-06-07 06:38

Joseph W. Polisi, president emeritus and chief China officer of the Tianjin Juilliard School, donates his book Beacon to the World: A History of Lincoln Center to Fang Yunfang, director of the Zikawei Library in Shanghai. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Music lovers in Shanghai will be able to attend more live music performances from the students and faculty of the Tianjin Juilliard School. On May 26, a chamber concert at Zikawei Library announced the continual communications between the prestigious music institute and Xuhui district in Shanghai.

Undergraduate and postgraduate students of Tianjin Juilliard played works composed by Chopin, Ravel, Brahms and Messiaen in the basilica lobby of the library.

The concert marked the beginning of the long-term collaboration between Tianjin Juilliard and Xuhui district. "In the coming music season, Tianjin Juilliard will present colorful performances in different art spaces around Xuhui district," says He Wei, CEO and artistic director of the Tianjin Juilliard School, the only overseas campus of the renowned Juilliard School at Lincoln Center, New York, in the United States.

Juilliard415, the school's principal period-instrument ensemble, is expected to give an innovative performance in Shanghai later this year, he says.

Joseph W. Polisi, president emeritus and chief China officer of the Juilliard School, donated his book Beacon to the World: A History of Lincoln Center to the Zikawei Library.

The Lincoln Center was "the first art center in which various performing arts ensembles are put together in one place. It was a new idea," Polisi tells China Daily. "It created a powerful vehicle through which the performing arts can be experienced, and its concept has been replicated around the world."

Polisi led the Juilliard School in New York for 34 years and after leaving office in 2018, he assumed the role of CEO of Tianjin Juilliard, overseeing and guiding various aspects of the school's development ever since.

Last year he was given the Lifetime Honorary Award of the inaugural Orchid Envoy, an international cultural accolade established by the China Foreign Languages Bureau, and he donated the 300,000 yuan ($42,274) prize money to establish a fund to support student and faculty activities at Tianjin Juilliard. "I felt it was important that this award be connected to the Tianjin Juilliard School … and we are actively fundraising now for student and faculty support, special programs and more. I thought this gift could be very helpful," he says.

Students of Tianjin Juilliard stage a concert in the lobby of Zikawei Library. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Polisi strongly believes in artists' activities in the community and involvement with society. During the 34 years he worked as president of the Juilliard School in New York, he started programs that sent students to play in hospitals, nursing homes and hospices. "I realized that it benefits the audiences in these nontraditional venues and the positive impact it has on the students. It allows them to perform outside their comfort zone and see how these audiences are enriched by their music. This allows our students to have a sense of communication, which is ultimately what any performer needs."

These activities in Shanghai have also benefited students at the Tianjin Juilliard School. "These young artists can understand the power of music and are becoming more entrepreneurial," Polisi says. "They start thinking about where they can perform, what they should perform and they also learn to speak about the music when they are talking to the audiences, which is very useful."

Polisi also found that "China has a very vibrant and exciting music scene. Millions of children are studying instruments and the public seems to be very enamored with Western music."

In many ways, he says, "the enthusiasm for Western classical music is much stronger in China than the United States. … It's an environment that allows this special genre of music to flourish. It's wonderful to work here".

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