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ONU Marching Band Hits a High Note in China


Band in ChinaColorguard member Autumn Steiner writes:

The Ohio Northern University Marching Band's trip to Shanghai and Beijing, China, was a spectacular year coming to fruition. When the possibility of going to China was no more than a whisper, most of us in the band never believed we could fly halfway around the world and perform for a foreign audience to great acclaim. The ONUMB has always been a particularly adventurous band, with previous trips to Hawaii, Rome, Montreal, and London under its belt, but China was the black pearl, the uncharted frontier.

Even when the moment was upon us - when we were scaling the Great Wall or performing for 70,000 people in Shanghai - we still struggled to comprehend the magnitude of our journey. We set out to show China a marching band, a concept few Chinese have ever encountered, but what we found was that China welcomed us with open arms and gave each of us a trip we would never forget.

Our eight-day, two-city tour included 100 musicians, twirlers and colorguard members, Dr. Charles Bates, band director, and three chaperones, including Dr. Anne Lippert, ONU Vice President of Academic Affairs.

The Journey Begins

November 15/16
En route to Shanghai

Today, after months of waiting, it was finally time to depart for China. The campus was winding down from the hustle and bustle of finals week, but the pace was quickening for the ONUMB. Time was a little tight, but we managed to make it to Detroit and secure our seats on time. Every last hat box, uniform, and instrument found its way to China too. Of course, we received plenty of stares and questions, particularly about our bright travel uniforms and hat boxes.

After settling in for a very long, albeit comfortable flight - nearly 16 hours in total - most of us promptly fell asleep to prepare for the intense week approaching. We flew over Canada and Alaska before arching over the Pacific, and the pristine views were spectacular. At that point, time was completely relative, but we could not wait to land in Shanghai!

Ni Hao

November 17

After clearing customs and adjusting our bodies to the 13-hour time difference, we awoke ready to see China, and China was certainly ready to greet us. Shanghai is a very cosmopolitan city, often dubbed the "oriental Paris," and it really lives up to its name. From our beautiful, modern hotel to the endless stream of taxis, buses and people, Shanghai does not disappoint. Our tour guides took advantage of the traffic to enlighten us on Chinese culture, particularly how to say hello: "Ni Hao."

Our first taste of Chinese culture came when we got the chance to experience the sights, smells, noise, and people of a busy bazaar. From eating with chopsticks to bargaining with vendors, we experienced a bit of culture shock. The value of an open-mind was certainly reinforced today.

Shanghai Video Clips on YouTube:

  • Video #1
  • Video #2

Celebrities in Shanghai

November 18

Shanghai has a fluctuating population of nearly 22 million and today the ONUMB set out to greet them all. We suited up for our first official performance on Nanjing Road, one of Shanghai's most expensive shopping districts, a little like a Chinese Rodeo Drive. None of us anticipated the chaos and excitement our presence would cause. From the minute we stepped off the bus in full band regalia, we were the biggest attraction in the square. We even had police escorts as we paraded through the crowds! To see so many people excited by our presence and our music was the most fantastic, overwhelming, and wonderful experience.

Still feeling a bit like celebrities, most of us spent the night enjoying some of Shanghai's finest entertainment at an acrobatics show: plate spinners, trick bicycle riders, traditional acrobatics, and a wire cage with five motorcycles racing around inside - amazing.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

November 19
Shanghai to Beijing

With an entire day to explore the city as we pleased, most of us took the chance to get a view from the top, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower that is. The Pearl Tower is the definitive building on the developing Shanghai skyline. From its observation decks the city is a sea of skyscrapers, most of which have cropped up since 1994.

That evening we boarded an overnight train to journey from Shanghai to Beijing, the capital city. We went to sleep in Shanghai and woke up in Beijing, ready for the final leg of our fabulous trip.

BandTing Hao

November 20

With the 2008 summer Olympics fast approaching, Beijing is transforming into a sleeker, more modernized city. What makes Beijing so special, however, is the juxtaposition of rich history against a modern backdrop. Remnants of ancient dynasties still populate the city and today we visited the Forbidden City, Beijing's most famous landmark. Home to Chinese emperors for five centuries, the intricate and immense Forbidden City was once reserved for royalty, but now tourists flock there to touch base with Chinese history. We followed our tour of the Forbidden City with a visit to Tiananmen Square, the emotional center of Chinese politics. In short, both places were "ting hao," or very good.

The Wall

November 21

Today we journeyed to, performed on, and climbed the Great Wall of China. Climbing the ancient, steep steps, looking out over the rugged mountains, feeling so small against the Great Wall - today was truly one of the best experiences of my life. To be able to say our band not only went to China, but performed in such magnificent places to such warm reception is something few can say. I'm still in awe.

Final Tour

November 22

We donned our uniforms for the final time today, finishing our musical tour of China in true ONU fashion. Our final performance was held at the Temple of Earth, a temple in northern Beijing built in 1530 to honor the god of earth. We marched through the outdoor stone temple, the beats of our cadence echoing against the silent walls. The audience intermittently swayed and clapped while listening to "Phantom of the Opera," "The Marriage of Figaro," a collection of pop songs, and traditional Chinese ballad "Jasmine Flower." Our spectacle of shining brass instruments, intricate uniforms, colorful flags, and flashing batons culminated with an ode to our alma mater: The ONU Fight Song.

Leaving on a Jet Plane

November 23
En Route to Ada

Leaving a place is always bittersweet. We were eager to go home, but sad to say goodbye to China, the fascinating country that set the stage for a week of whirlwind performances, fascinating tours, exotic food, and appreciation for the richness of Chinese culture. We returned home with hundreds of photographs, several souvenirs, and memories to last a lifetime. It was a journey most of us never thought we would make, but our tour of China turned out to be more amazing than we could have ever anticipated.

Written by Autumn Steiner
ONUMB Colorguard member
Junior, professional writing
Bluffton, Ohio