Smith, Park, and Blacklow in Seoul, fall 2013
Three faculty members from Notre Dame’s Department of Music embarked today, October 7, on a 12-day tour to Asia, building scholarly and cultural connections with universities in China and South Korea.
Professor Peter Smith, chair of the department, Professor John Blacklow, an award-winning pianist, and Assistant Professional Specialist Tricia Park, a critically acclaimed violinist, will travel to Shanghai, Beijing, and Seoul. The trio will present lectures and performances, including one at Beijing’s Capital Library, in conjunction with the U.S. Embassy.
“The Capital Library is among the largest and most significant libraries in all of China and itself an institution of great importance,” Smith said. “I would say it speaks highly to the reputation of Notre Dame’s music department that we have received these invitations.”
The three faculty members, who conducted a similar trip last fall, say they are eager to return and further develop relationships with scholars and musicians in Asia. The response to last year’s visit, Smith said, was “uniformly warm and enthusiastic.”
“There is great appreciation for Western classical music in China and Korea,” he said.
Park, Blacklow, and Smith at the Museum of the National Taipei University of Education
During last year’s trip, Blacklow and Park presented master classes in piano and violin, as well as formal recitals at Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei and the Museum of the National Taipei University of Education (MoNTUE). Smith offered scholarly lectures at both universities.
The MoNTUE event was especially noteworthy as it was organized in conjunction with the American Institute in Taiwan as part of its ongoing efforts to link U.S. universities and partners in Taiwan.
“The director of the institute is Notre Dame graduate Chris Marut, who has had a long and distinguished career in the State Department,” Smith said. “Chris attended the lecture and recital with members of his staff, introduced us to the audience beforehand, and cohosted the reception afterward.”
Audience members thoroughly enjoyed the event, Marut said. “Notre Dame’s collaboration with the American Institute in Taiwan and the National Taipei University of Education provided a great opportunity to connect American musicians and educators with their counterparts in Taiwan.”
Marut ’74 is just one of many Notre Dame alumni working in Asia. Getting to know these graduates was one of the most rewarding parts of last year’s trip, Smith said. This fall, the group plans to meet informally with members of the alumni club in Seoul and participate in Discover ND events in Shanghai and Beijing, connecting parents and prospective students with Notre Dame alumni.
“The alumni are very positive and enthusiastic about their Notre Dame experience and eager to share information about it and to stay connected via our visits,” Smith said.
“Last year, David Wang organized a Notre Dame music night at the American Club of Taipei. We had dinner there with a group of alums. Then I offered my presentation and Tricia and John performed. After the performance, each guest took the microphone to reflect on his/her ND connection and experience, culminating in comments from Tricia, John, and me. It was a great success.”
Notre Dame’s Beijing Global Gateway
The support of Notre Dame’s Beijing Global Gateway has also been critical to the success of the music department’s Asian tours, Smith said. “In particular, Jonathan Noble, assistant provost for internationalization–Asia, and his assistant, Miranda Ma, have been an enormous help to us. They have established an excellent network of contacts on behalf of the University in these major Asian cities.”
The Beijing Global Gateway, part of Notre Dame International’s network of global gateways, aims to increase Notre Dame’s reputation in Asia. “With this goal in mind, Noble said, “we facilitate opportunities for our faculty to share their knowledge, expertise, and talent through collaborations with leading universities, the Notre Dame community in Asia, and other organizations.
“Notre Dame’s Department of Music, through performances at Discover Notre Dame events in Shanghai and Beijing, as well as at Peking University and the Beijing Capital Library, will be helping to build partnerships and share Notre Dame with a growing community of friends.”
Smith is already planning a third trip for fall 2015. The visits, he said, are a valuable opportunity for both the faculty at Notre Dame and their counterparts in Asia to learn from one another.
“In America, we have great respect, even awe, for the Asian educational system and its ability to impart intellectual rigor on its students,” Smith said. “What surprised me, however, was the degree to which Asians still tend to view us as leaders in education. They admire our ability to foster creativity and critical thinking and an ability in our young people to grow to imagine the next great thing. So, we both respect each other and have complementary strengths in our educational systems.
“Perhaps through the cultural exchange these tours are designed to foster, we can come to adopt, respectively, the best of what we both have to offer.”