Audition and recruitment tour in Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing
Saturday, October 20, 2012
It feels great to be back in Hong Kong! I always enjoy visiting this city; it is like New York City in the Caribbean. We have a free day in Hong Kong, which gives us an opportunity to explore the region.
After researching activities on TripAdvisor, we decided that we needed to get some exercise, so we chose to hike “The Dragon’s Back.” What an experience! We took a taxi that whisked us 30 minutes outside the city to a hilly tropical countryside with incredible views. There was a little drama when the taxi arrived. I opened my door and the glass shattered! The window glass was everywhere and we couldn’t figure out how it happened. Either way, we decided that it would be best to just keep moving and not try to explain the situation through broken English.
The two-mile hike led us through the tropical countryside, and across a ridge that overlooked the ocean and small towns. Three hours later, the path led us into Big Wave Village, which is a quaint beach town. We had a light lunch, rented some beach chairs, went swimming in the ocean, and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon.
That evening, we decided to go to Victoria Peak for dinner. We chose a fantastic Chinese restaurant called Tien Yi, which had fantastic views of the city below.
The dinner was quite good, and we decided to order Peking Duck, which some of our group is not fond of, but is something we have to order every once in awhile for the experience. They deliver a whole cooked duck to the table, carve it into little pieces, and then you eat it with tortilla-like pancakes, cucumbers, green onions, and hoison sauce. It isn’t my favorite Chinese dish, but I it is good to eat every once in awhile.
The following day we heard a full day of great auditions at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. The talent in Hong Kong is always high, and the English level is also high, which makes for a nice pool of applicants.
After auditions, we went out to another traditional Chinese restaurant called Peking Garden, which is across the harbor in Kowloon and has been a annual tradition of this group over the past 30 years. The food is superb, and they have noodle-making shows that are fun to watch. It is amazing to see how throwing, slapping, and pulling a single piece of dough can make noodles.
Now we are off to Bangkok, and I am sure I will have plenty of stories to report from there!
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Greetings from Taipei! This post will be less eventful than others, as we have little free time after the long audition days and early nights (we are still dealing with jet-lag). Our auditions are again at the quaint Forum Theatre, which is a coffee shop and eatery that doubles as a music venue. Our organizer this year is Crystal, who was patient, helpful, and a joy to be around for three days.
The highlights from Taipei are definitely centered around meals. We had the opportunity to eat at some great restaurants during our stay. One was a famous dumpling house called Din Tai Fung that served the most delicious dumplings. My favorite was a dumpling that had hot soup inside, so after you bite it, the soup explodes into your mouth. They were simply exquisite.
After eating at the dumpling house, we took a long walk back to the hotel and passed through the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. I visited this site two years ago and I am again impressed with the scale of these buildings. They are huge but have been built in such a way that you are unaware how large they are until you stand right next to them.
On the final night, we ate at a restaurant in Snake Alley called Tainan Tan-Tsu-Mien, which has become a group tradition.The décor is wonderfully gaudy and Viennese. It a very formal restaurant that allows you to pick your seafood from tanks at the front of the restaurant, tell the chef how you would like it prepared (broiled, fried, etc.), and then each dish arrives at the table. Everything was delicious.
After three busy days and 70 auditions in Taipei, we are off to Hong Kong, which is one of my favorite destinations in the world.
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
...was the translation that the taxi driver’s iPad showed after the third time around the same block. We were literally going in circles. What we believe it meant to say was “we are lost and your map stinks!” We eventually stopped a bystander who could translate properly and set the taxi in the right direction. And so our trip in Seoul began.
Our group this year consists of Michael Manderen from Oberlin, David Lane from Peabody, Amy Anderson for Manhattan, and Shaun Ramsay from Boston University. We all traveled on the USA Schools of Music Asia Audition Tour last year, so it is great to reconnect with such wonderful friends and colleagues and embark on this crazy journey together.
It feels great to be back in Seoul; it is a beautiful city and the people are wonderful. We always take the first day off to get acclimated to the 12-hour time change, and we took advantage of our free time to do some sightseeing. We started the day off by renting bikes on the Han River. It felt great to get some exercise. After riding up and down the river, we enjoyed a traditional Korean barbecue lunch at a restaurant in Itaewon. They bring a mini grill with red hot coals to your table and cook the food in front of you. There are also about ten different bowls with munchies in them - kimchi, greens, garlic, sauces, mushrooms, etc. It was a fun lunch.
On our walk back to the hotel, we happened to pass a jazz club where a jazz trio was performing for a Sunday brunch. The others kept walking, but I had to stop in to check them out. They were fantastic musicians, and after talking with them on the break, they invited me up to play a song with the band. It was quite an experience and something very unexpected.
After hanging out at the jazz club for a couple hours, I made my way back to the hotel in time to meet the group to see “Nanta.” Nanta is a live show and the top rated activity in Seoul on TripAdvisor.com. I have wanted to go for the past two years and the show lived up to its reputation. It was essentially a “Stomp” show that takes place in a kitchen and features a lot of percussion, humor, and audience participation. At one point, they were looking for two audience members to go up on stage, and guess who they chose...me! I was apprehensive about going up to the stage, but my friends cheered me on and I submitted. My role was to taste the soup that they were preparing for the wedding (and for which we later discovered that I was the groom!). What a hoot. After the show, we checked out a wild parade that was happening right outside the theater, and then headed back to the hotel to get some sleep before an early morning of auditions.
The next day, we got down to business and heard 35 auditions at the Cosmos theater, and the talent level was very high. This was the busiest day the group has ever had in Seoul, and we heard some fantastic musicians whom we hope apply and enroll in our schools. We concluded a very long day of auditions at 6:30 p.m., and then headed back to the hotel for dinner and sleep.
Today, we traveled to Taipei and tomorrow we have three packed days and hear about 70 auditions. Stay tuned for more posts!