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Bemidji State University students to teach, learn at university in China

A nascent musical venture that began at Bemidji State University last fall has flowered into an international teaching opportunity for Voltage and professor Del Lyren. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — Musical ambassadors from Bemidji State University soon will venture to the Far East for a unique learning and teaching experience.

Known on campus as Voltage — Molly Bass, Judah Chezik, Jesica Lindquist, Josh May and Ben Schreiber, the group leaves May 23 for Weifang University on the Shandong Peninsula in China. Del Lyren, professor of music at BSU, will accompany the group and teach classes other than those given by the students.

Shandong Peninsula is the home of one the wealthiest provinces in China. It is located on the eastern edge of the north China plain and extends out to the Bohair Sea to the north and the Yellow Sea to the southeast.

"We will spend every morning taking classes on the Chinese language and culture," Lyren said. "The afternoons will be given over to spending time working on electronic music, compositions and performance rehearsals."

Started in 1951, Weifang University has a student enrollment of more than 12,000.

Lyren and his colleagues at BSU have already gained a reputation in the world of electronic music and are the "school to be at" in the area. The trend toward electronically enhanced instruments made a splash at BSU last fall when the MIDIots, a faculty electronic musical ensemble, made its debut.

Lyren said Chinese musicians mainly focus on western musical notation and instruments, such as the piano, cello and violin. They have virtually no experience with EWI (electronic wind instruments), which have a silicone mouthpiece and sensors for air pressure for volume control and teeth pressure for vibrato — a variation in pitch or a wavering of the tone as in singing. And , essentially, the instrument is played through a computer.

Another genre of music not notable to the Chinese is New Age or jazz/rock music. Lyren said the addition of the synthesizer to the easily versatile instruments will enable players to compose musical scores using easily accessible software programs.

Lyren said the trip is another opportunity to establish a teaching/learning base in China for musicians who wish to study the latest western music genres.

The BSU group will instruct students in the basics of EWI instrumentation. The group also will perform in a series of concerts at various venues, including other Chinese colleges.

The Chinese students will be invited to join the group on stage for a final performance before the BSU students return June 22.