RADFORD — Radford High School turned into a transpacific cultural hotspot on Feb. 5.
The school welcomed three Chinese exchange students that will stay in Radford for six weeks. To kick off the experience, the Central Conservatory of Music Honor Prep from Beijing performed in the Radford High School auditorium.
RHS students heard a string orchestra composed of Beijing’s elite high school musicians.
According to Liang Chai, the leader of the musical group, the Central Conservatory of Music is considered the very best music conservatory in China, training young musicians from preschool through college level.
“Most of the students here today are in high school, some are in college,” Chai said.
The group also performed at the Virginia Tech Moss Arts Center, and then moved on to a performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
“I think it’s a big deal that these kids are going from Radford to the Kennedy Center,” Chai said.
According to Chai, most of the high school students plan to attend universities in the United States, and this trip is serving as a needed campus visit.
“The purpose of this trip it of course to perform and share our passion, but also for a campus visit. They all plan to study here and need to see what life is like. We will visit Virginia Tech, Radford and the Peabody Conservatory when we go to Kennedy,” Chai said.
The students, according to Chai, are well-rounded, participating in much more than the orchestra.
“They all speak perfect English and some just passed the AP Music Theory test with a perfect score of five,” Chai said.
The students worked hard to earn the trip to the U.S., but according to Chai, it wasn’t a difficult task to encourage them to practice.
“We have tremendous virtuosos coming from China. These kids never watch the clock,” Chai said. “They want to be musicians and are eager to learn. It’s great.”
In conjunction with the Moss Arts Center, the ensemble was looking for a small high school to hold a concert. According to Jon Catherwood-Ginn, the partnerships and engagement manager at the Moss Art Center, it was important to expose the high school students to such a high quality of music.
“To have an ensemble full of high school students visit is amazing,” Catherwood-Ginn said. “This is meant to encourage the kids. We want the kids to embrace the arts at a young age. It was great to see a group of kids from across the world doing just that.”
Sarah Halvorson-Fried, a second year graduate music student at Virginia Tech, helped connect the ensemble with the RHS administration.
“I think this offers the Radford students an opportunity to see what they themselves can do,” Halvorson-Fried said. “It provides a great example. Some kids don’t know that they too could play this type of music.”