by Xinhua writers Xu Jing, Zhang Yuan
CHICAGO, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- Greg Jenkins, president and CEO of Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Muscatine in the U.S. midwestern state of Iowa, again hosted Chinese musicians at his house during the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday this year.
Jenkins' family has hosted Chinese musicians every year in the past four years when they visited this small town along the Mississippi River. This year they came to his house Wednesday. "We enjoy each other's company," Jenkins told Xinhua. "Everybody's different, but they all seem to really love what they do. And they're all very good at what they do."
It has become a tradition for the local families in Muscatine to have Chinese musicians stay over at their houses, to meet their kids and eat breakfast together. This "unique American experience" usually has a lasting impression because it is a taste of the real life in America, said Dan Stein, chairman of the Muscatine-China Initiatives Committee.
In the past three years, Chinese musicians from Beijing, the provinces of Zhejiang and Shaanxi have presented local audience in Muscatine with China's folk music and dances. This year, they brought Peking opera and 2,400-year-old chime bells from central China's Hubei Province, which is located on the middle reaches of the Yangtze River.
"I'm a big fan of China and its culture," Stein told Xinhua. He said Muscatine, a small town not frequented by top-level musicians, is excited by the arrival of professional musicians from major Chinese cities and their repertoire of music.
"Experience each year has been very unique," he said.
Glad Cheng has sponsored the Chinese New Year concert in Muscatine for four years. More than five years ago, he came to this small U.S. town and invested in some properties, including the only hotel project in the city.
Thanks to the yearly concerts, local residents are becoming more interested in Chinese culture, Cheng said. He has launched the Sino-U.S. Friendship Center in downtown Muscatine, which offers music, dance, and language courses to hundreds of children a week.
A good way to let people in the U.S. Midwest know China is to start with children, Cheng said. "If we people start to know each other, it will be conducive to the communication and cooperation between the two countries."
Stein shares Cheng's view. "When the kids are young, high school or university exchanges, that's when a person is starting to form their opinion of the world. If we can get the exchanges at that time and they can learn something about the different countries, it will have a big effect over their lifetime."
China implies a completely different experience from language to food to culture, Stein said. "The kids we've sent over there, when they come back, they have a new perspective on the world. They will have more of a global perspective. This is really important, it is a life-changing experience."
Several groups of high school students in Muscatine have visited China, either to attend China International Chorus Festival or for exchange programs over the past few years.
Stein perceived the growing influences the Chinese New Year concerts on the local community. "We hear more people saying things like 'I'd like to work with you guys,' 'I'd like to learn more about what you're doing and know something more about China'."
Shae Carter is a sales administrative assistant at the Merrill in Muscatine, the hotel in which Cheng has a share.
"I have watched the Chinese New Year concerts before, every year, I am so excited that they are here to give us this opportunity; they are magnificent," Carter told Xinhua.
Carter has taken a college course on Chinese calligraphy. "I really enjoy it. It relaxes me." She plans to go to China someday with her boyfriend. "I'm looking forward to it. There're a lot of good things to see."
Lu Xiangrong, president of Hubei Chime Bells National Chinese Orchestra, was thrilled by the enthusiastic response from the audience in Muscatine. "Music has no border. It is our great pleasure to bring the enjoyment to the U.S. people."
Stein expressed the hope that more Chinese people would come to Muscatine. "In Muscatine we feel like we have a special bond with the Chinese people."
"When common people meet common people, it is always a great experience. Any time we can understand each other and learn something about the other side, it makes everything easier," Stein said.