The Jinsha Summer Music Festival is an immersive experience for students
For young music students, the Jinsha Summer Music Festival is about much more than simply studying musical notes on a page. It sends them on a 24-day odyssey to experience the culture, art, and history of China. And in the process inspires self-discovery and expanded imagination.
The Jinsha Festival (Jinsha means Golden Sands) was established in 2009 by Ingrid Larragoity, who is pursuing a doctor of musical arts degree in conducting at the College of Music. Her goal is to enhance the music education of students from 14-18 years of age through college age, while broadening their cultural horizons in China.
“Why go to China and just practice music?” said Larragoity, who is also the festival’s artistic director. “You can practice at home. When students learn about the people in China—their culture and arts—when they sit with a Chinese student and play music together or hang out, eat meals, and sightsee together, those students come back with a global understanding of that culture. They come back changed.”
This unique program is available to all students who are learning to play a musical instrument, winds or strings, either through their schools or in private lessons.
Students first travel to Chengdu in the heart of China, and there the intense curriculum begins each day at 8 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m. Students take private lessons and attend master classes with professors from the Szechuan Conservatory of Music, attend classes with professional performers of Chinese Opera, learn Mandarin, Chinese calligraphy, Chinese traditional instruments, and more.
The daily classes enable students to become more proficient at playing their instruments while acquiring valuable experience in group performance through ensemble and chamber coachings. Festival participants are joined by graduate students from the conservatory in a cultural exchange of music and language. The American students also visit a local Mandarin/English school where they can practice their language skills while visiting with Chinese students.
During the third week of the festival, students travel to Xi’an and Beijing where they tour such attractions as the Great Wall of China, the Terra Cotta Warriors, the Summer Palace, the Olympic Village, the Forbidden City, and more.
“Our students see how culturally hungry the Chinese people are and how they want so badly to come to the United States to study music,” she said. “That hunger awakens something in our students, who come back inspired and more dedicated to their music.”
Larragoity developed the idea for the festival with her Chinese friend Sha Zhang, who is the festival’s overall director. The two met while Larragoity was teaching high school music at Coral Glades High School in Coral Springs, Florida. Larragoity directed an orchestra and brought in Zhang, a professional violinist, as a clinician. The initial festival participants were from Florida, but now that Larragoity is living in Colorado, enrollment has been opened to students from Boulder County high schools.
The Jinsha Summer Music Festival was established when Larragoity was teaching in Florida, but now that she’s living in Colorado, she is opening enrollment to students in high schools in Boulder County and throughout Colorado.
Distinguished Professor Allan McMurray, chair of the conducting faculty and director of bands at the COM, is also devoted to enriching students’ cultural experience on a global scale. McMurray, who has taken CU-Boulder music students to festivals in England and Japan, understands the far-reaching benefits that students receive from immersion in other countries.
“It’s great to have a person like Ingrid who is imaginative and entrepreneurial, doing things like this,” he said. “When musicians can draw on cultural life experiences and can relate to the inspirational aspect that created the work rather than just the notes on the page, their personal expression becomes more complex and interesting.”
Larragoity has been living a multicultural experience all her life. With a Chinese mother and a Spanish father, she has always been exposed to a broader perspective.
“I want Jinsha to be a personal experience for students. They should get more than just private music lessons in China,” said Larragoity. “I want them to come back with the understanding that there’s a bigger world.”
For more information, go to www.jinshafestival.com