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NYA Bluegrass Ensemble to Play Festival in China

September 24, 2012

The North Yarmouth Academy (NYA) bluegrass ensemble (“The Royal River Honey Badgers”) was selected to perform at the 2012 JinJiang-Jiaxiang International Students’ Arts Festival in Chengdu, China from October 22 to October 25.

NYA Bluegrass Ensemble "Royal River Honey Badgers"

NYA Bluegrass Ensemble, the “Royal River Honey Badgers”
(photo courtesy of Mary Noyes)

The JinJiang-Jiaxiang International Students’ Arts Festival was planned and initiated by 32 students from eight high schools in the JinJiang district of Chengdu, China. Principal Jiemin Lei of the Jiaxiang Foreign Language School wrote in the invitation letter, “Our goal is to provide the platform for the students at home and abroad to develop a mutual understanding, respect, friendships and exchange of culture, ideas and performance arts.”  Activities will include vocal music, dance, instrumental music, martial arts, school culture, exploration of traditional arts, local folklore and culture and more. “The students are excited to learn about the culture of Sichuan Province and to have a chance to play music and spend time with other teenage musicians and artists from around the world,” said Ian Ramsey, NYA’s Visual and Performing Arts Department Chair.
The six member ensemble has been together for approximately three years (some members have been with the group longer than others). Members include:  Grace Gilbert ‘13 (North Yarmouth), mandolin; Alex Paige ’14 (Brunswick), guitar; Dainius Bukauskas ’13 (Peaks Island), bass; Max Maurer ’14 (Freeport), guitar; Claire Maurer ’16 (Freeport), fiddle; and Perrin Davidson ’17 (Freeport), banjo. “All of us in bluegrass are really excited about the opportunity to play at the festival. We are already practicing intensively to prepare for the trip and are looking forward to interacting with people from other cultures that will also be performing there,” said Alex Paige. “The JinJiang-Jiaxiang International Students’ Arts Festival will not only provide our students with the opportunity to showcase the strengths of the arts at NYA but also the chance to meet and interact with other students who value the performing arts on a global stage.  In many ways, music is the ideal international language for cultural exchange,” said Head of School Brad Choyt, who traveled to Chengdu during the summer.

Eighth grade banjo player Perrin Davidson (Freeport) had a problem: He had never been out of the country and did not have a visa or passport (both are required to travel to China). Processing time for a passport is four to six weeks, and expedited passports take up to three weeks. The Davidsons filed for a passport with normal delivery and hoped for the best. China was another six weeks away. Kim Davidson, Perrin’s mother, had second thoughts and changed the paperwork to expedite the process. She called the National Passport Center to check on the progress, and explained why they needed the passport so quickly. Peter, a manager, was put on the line. Kim asked Perrin to play Foggy Mountain Breakdown on the banjo into the phone. She explained, “After a long, echoing laughter from Peter and an ‘I LOVE IT!,’ we had the passport in hand just 11 days after filling in the application.” Perrin said, “I don’t even think playing the banjo showed how badly I needed the passport. I think it just made the man on the phone happy.”

The group practices two times per week for 45 minutes and works with the faculty at 317 Main Street Music Center in Yarmouth once a month. “We will be practicing every day now that we’ve been invited to the festival in China,” said Ramsey. “I told them they had five weeks to go from a high school bluegrass band to a professional bluegrass band.” They got a head start on September 20 when they had the opportunity to play Foggy Mountain Breakdown with world-renowned banjo player Tony Trischka at a concert held at Head of School Brad Choyt’s home. The event was a fundraiser for the first annual Maine State Acoustic Music Festival, which NYA and 317 Main Street Music Center will be co-hosting this April.

The students will spend four days in Chengdu and two days in Beijing.  The Chengdu region is habitat for pandas, and they hope to visit Chengdu Panda Base, a panda breeding center while they are there. Following the festival, they will travel to Beijing, where they will visit landmarks such as Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Great Wall among other things.  The students’ airfare, food and lodging in Chengdu are covered by their hosts.

North Yarmouth Academy is an independent, college preparatory, coeducational day school serving students in grades five through twelve. Since 1814, NYA has fostered integrity, character and intellect in young adults. For more information, please contact NYA at 207-847-5423 or visit our website at www.nya.org.

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  1. Wendy Rae Alpson says:

    The members of this band are very friendly. I was being with them for four days. They are really nice. They performed very well,especially Call Me Maybe. And to my suprise, their friend in the USA wrote a song for them of the panda in Chengdu,Sichuan. They didn’t know how to speak Chinese, but they tried singing the song in Chinese. I think they are incredible, they like the Chinese culture. I hope they can come to China again.

  2. Pat McEnroe says:

    We also saw the group in Beijing at the Place Cafe – what a great job they did! The music was great, the group was entertaining and it was such a nice surprise for us. We really enjoyed – thank you so much!

  3. Jaime Hill says:

    My 18 month old and I saw the performance yesterday in Beijing and they were fantastic!!! My 18 month old after we left kept saying, “music music”, she loved it so much. Thanks so much for performing in Beijing and coming all this way! We loved it!

  4. Meri McCoy-Thompson says:

    We saw the group perform this afternoon in Beijing and they were amazing! NYA should be very proud of this group. They showed the best of American culture and teens to the crowd. What a good show!

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