ESP in China: Saxophone Heroes in Shanghai

ESP SHANGHAI 1

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 Erik’s report on the group’s further experiences in Shanghai.

By Erik Elmgren

After a day exploring Shanghai, our experience on the trip shifted from tourism to performing as we spent time at the Shanghai Summer Youth Saxophone Camp hosted at the Dazhong Conference Hotel about an hour outside of Shanghai. This camp hosts hundreds of saxophonists of all ages and brings in some great guest artists. ESP was featured at the camp alongside jazz greats Antonio Hart, Eric Marienthal, and French saxophonist Vincent David. When we weren’t busy preparing for our own concert, it was a treat to be able to attend performances, masterclasses, and rehearsals with all of these fantastic artists and the campers.

As ESP prepared for our concert on night of July 13, we all got to know our Chinese hosts, despite the language and cultural barriers. We were provided with three wonderful meals everyday that always had a new Chinese dish to try, ranging from eggplant to taro root balls and everything in between. In fact, at one of these meals ESP decided to surprise me by singing happy birthday (they had been sneakily not letting on that they knew it was my birthday until that time) and the entire camp joined in, which was quite the experience! The hotel accommodations were also a welcome shelter from the sweltering tropical heat outside, which peaked as high as 115 degrees Fahrenheit when including the humidity. In addition to interacting with our eager and gracious hosts, we also had many opportunities to interact with the students of the camp.

To say that these students were some of the most enthusiastic young saxophonists we had ever met would be an understatement. They were full of excitement and enthusiasm every time we saw them, and they were all eager to say hello and take pictures with us. It was definitely a first for many of us to be rehearsing for a concert and have people filming on their phones through the windows. Myles even had a student film him reading a book while on break from rehearsal! Despite the language barrier the students were always quick to ask for autographs on anything from CDs, to saxophone cases, to clothing, which was definitely a unique experience for a lot of us!

ESP programmed nearly our entire tour repertoire for this concert, which was an hour and a half of music with no intermission. Despite all the excitement in the audience and the ensemble we were definitely exhausted by the time we reached the end. But even still we couldn’t leave the stage without giving two encores and running out of pieces to play. After the concert we got more of an opportunity to socialize with the campers and guest artists! After many pictures, autographs, and Chien-Kwan meeting Eric Marienthal (one of his childhood heroes) we began to filter back to our rooms. We started packing up and getting ready for an early train ride the next morning to the next stop on our journey: Beijing.

ESP SHANGHAI 2

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