What’s a Guzheng, you ask?
The teacher I was assigned to (Mu Xuan) speaks only a little English, and communicating with her has been INCREDIBLY difficult. Many of the students speak decent English, so she has had them translating for us, and had me to meet the elementary music teacher today at 4:00 on the music hallway. When I got there, Jai (the elem teacher) took me to the Guzheng Room, where there are probably 15 guzheng instruments lined up like keyboards with music stands in front of them, and she had me sit down at one. She speaks NO English… but I soon realized I was there for a lesson as she started taping the little picks to my fingers and gesturing for me to copy what she did on the instrument.
It was SO MUCH FUN. The language barrier was difficult, but I was able to understand what she wanted me to do thanks to all the modeling she was doing. She helped me say the words of things I was playing in Chinese, including the names of different techniques on the instrument as well as the names for the fingers I should use. She was a very good teacher. I am hoping to find out if there is a group guzheng class I can attend… I’d love to see how she teaches a group of students, as opposed to just a private lesson with me. She showed me the notation system in the book, which is only numbers with little dots, arrows, and lines drawn around them to indicate what octave and ornamentation belongs to each note… I have no idea how rhythm is hidden within it all, or if you’re simply expected to know how this traditional Chinese piece of music should sound… Jai played it all beautifully for me, smiled as I complimented her playing, and fiddled around with a few English words before I realized she was trying to tell me I have homework to do.
After an hour lesson, her and I walked over to the chorus room to talk to Mu Xuan. Her and I have another lesson this Friday, and she picked out a time on my schedule when she will come unlock the room for me to practice on my own on Wednesday. I would love for this to happen each week I’m here (since it’s only 2 more, really), but I wasn’t able to find that out today. Regardless, I am so excited to be learning something about a completely new instrument while I’m here 🙂 A little bummed it’s not an instrument small enough for me to take home and continue playing… but oh well. Maybe before I leave Jai will have me playing something decent enough to share with you all 🙂
After a frustrating first few days at the school, today was very refreshing. The chorus rehearsal I went to this morning was really well-managed, unlike the ones I saw last Friday. I am helping with the musical Fame, and Mu Xuan wants me to help sing with the students tomorrow, and I’m excited to be of some help. Also, I bought a trumpet at the market yesterday for $40 😀 I was way more excited about it yesterday and all day today in anticipation of playing it. I did get to play it for a bit, but unfortunately, I learned first hand a very valuable lesson about quality today:
No, that’s not supposed to do that, and No, I’m not sure I can fix it… *sigh* of course I will try, and I also plan to go back to the woman that sold it to me and see if she can help me out – she wasn’t interested in scamming me that day, and was very interested in doing business with me in the future, so I think she will be concerned with helping me out.