Audition and recruitment tour in Seoul, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing
Thursday, October 27, 2011
From Bangkok, we flew to Guangzhou, which is in mainland China. There is a big trade conference going on in Guangzhou, which happens twice each year. We stayed at the Shangri-La Hotel, which is located next to the Conference Center, so the hotel was packed with conference attendees from around the world.
On the first night, our trip organizer, Kai Fu, took us to a traditional Cantonese restaurant. This was one of the most memorable experiences of the trip. As we arrived, we were greeted at the front entrance by a man who was butchering a live crocodile. He had just cut off its head and it was still blinking and breathing! He removed the heart, which also continued to beat for about 30 minutes. I was going to post some photos of the crocodile, but I think they are too graphic.
Behind the butcher was a huge tank of grouper (fish) that were the size of a small human. Surrounded by the butcher in long rows were about 200 aquariums. Inside each tank was every conceivable species of aquatic animal. Here’s what I can immediately remember: different kinds and sizes of shrimp; water snakes; water beetles; crabs; lobsters, many species of fish; dozens of different shellfish and scallops; turtles; sand worms; eels…you get the idea. Surrounding the tanks were jars containing different kinds of alcohol with exotic creatures inside like snake heads and scorpions. The restaurant was HUGE. It had five floors and each floor probably sat 200 people.
Kai and I did the ordering. A waitress led us around the tanks and we picked out what we wanted, how many of each, and how we wanted them prepared. We stuck with mostly normal items, but I HAD to try the water beetles. I didn’t tell the rest of the table, so when they arrived, it was a bit like a scene out of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (if you have seen it, you know what I mean!). The water beetles were actually pretty tasty. They were fried with garlic. The most difficult part was the shell. After a bit of chewing, though, you could eventually swallow everything. I was proud of the group. Almost everyone tried the water beetles, which made for a good bonding experience! The rest of the dinner was very delicious. We ordered jumbo shrimp (about the size of my hand), grouper, scallops, oysters, and a bunch of vegetables.
The following day was long and full of auditions. Auditions were located at the Xinghai Conservatory, from which three of our current Chinese students came this past year. We heard 46 applicants and many of them were very strong candidates. If you do the math, 46 applicants times 15-minute auditions each comes out to about to 12 hours of auditions! Needless to say, these audition days in mainland China are exhausting.
Before we left, we had lunch with representatives from the Xinghai Conservatory. Xinghai has about 4,000 music students. They audition about 10,000 students for an incoming class of 800. Tuition is about $2,000 USD per year, and living expenses cost another $2,000. It was great opportunity to meet the Xinghai representatives and I look forward to future collaborations between Ithaca and Xinghai!
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