Eastman Saxophone Ensemble on Tour in China: a Shanghai Spectacle


From concert halls to music camps, the Eastman Saxophone Project (ESP), directed by Professor Chien-Kwan Lin, will bring its innovative programing and versatile performances to a variety of audiences in China this summer, during a concert tour that will last from July 13 through July 21. We asked ESP members Myles Boothroyd and Erik Elmgren to blog about their experiences; here is Myles’ report on the group’s first few hours in Shanghai.

By Myles Boothroyd

The Eastman Saxophone Project (ESP) stepped off of a thirteen-hour flight Sunday night and into the thick, semitropical air that characterizes summers in Shanghai. We were greeted at out hotel with a warm reception — local saxophone students attending the Shanghai Saxophone Summer Camp were lined up and down the lobby, applauding as we entered and helping to haul our twenty-odd suitcases from the bus. We enjoyed a reception of hot dog pastries (a first for most of us) and sweetened milk, though I suspect many were struggling to stay awake after twenty-four hours of travel. Our tired eyes notwithstanding, I do think that we musicians thrive on this sort of fatigue — being tired means we’re soaking up every drop of adventure.

There’s a twelve-hour time difference in China, a total flip-flop in one’s sleeping schedule, so naturally we were determined to stay awake as long as possible during our first full day in Shanghai. We drove into the heart of the city and spent the next nine hours exploring side streets, subway cars, souvenir shops, and local Starbucks (even after just a few hours, it’s refreshing to encounter reminders of home). What I found is that Shanghai is a beautiful, energized, jam-packed, and diverse city that holds everything one would expect to find in China, and then some.


We ate lunch at an upscale bistro adorned with photos of celebrities and politicians (including the Clintons) who have previously stopped by. I tried jellyfish for the first time, and I’d happily have it again, although the rubbery crunch took some getting used to (really—why is it crunchy??). Meals in China consist of endlessly colorful dishes set atop a glass turntable; to try some beef across the table, simply spin the whole thing in your direction and dig in with your chopsticks. Incredibly, I was full before the second round of dishes came, followed by a third…. There’s no shortage of food when you have such wonderful hosts!


I will let the pictures speak for themselves, but Shanghai is — needless to say — a spectacle. We wandered a city square replete with red pagodas straight from the imagination of anyone who’s ever seen a Hollywood film set in China. In the early evening, we stood on a fifty-second-story balcony while gazing up at a curved skyscraper towered some twenty stories higher, the top of which was only sometimes visible through the fog. There’s a topical humidity here, albeit with no ocean breeze to whisk it away. People move with a sense of determined urgency, dodging cars (which always get the right of way—a fact that any tourist should learn quickly) and vying for precious space on subway escalators. It’s a thrill just to walk through this supercharged atmosphere where the streets are twice as busy as those in New York City. And, of course, after nine hours of walking, we only caught a glimpse of Shanghai. I already can’t wait for the next outing.

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