On July 22, 2017, the National Youth Orchestra of China (NYO China) made its international debut at Carnegie Hall in New York with conductor Ludovic Morlot at the helm. The orchestra, closely modeled after the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America that toured China in 2015, provides exceptional young musicians aged 14-21 with an opportunity to participate in intensive training and tour abroad at no cost. It also offers young Chinese and American musicians the chance to interact with each other. Music is an example of how people-to-people exchange can help lay the foundation for strong state-to-state relationships. The program included a performance of Chinese-American composer Zhou Long’s tone poem The Rhyme of Taigu, Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, and Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, performed by Chinese virtuoso piano soloist Yuja Wang. Tickets were sold out and the orchestra was well-received, garnering enthusiastic applause from its American counterpart.
China’s taste for Western classical music has grown in the last several decades, and this is the latest in musical exchanges between New York and China. In 2012, the New York Philharmonic signed a partnership with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra that included a residency in China and a stake in their training program. The Eastman School of Music has partnered with the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing for their conservatory exchange program. China’s enthusiasm for classical music has led many American orchestras to establish relationships with Chinese institutions and tour throughout the country. As Western classical music has garnered wider acceptance in China, the country’s orchestras have improved in quality and increasingly toured in the United States. Musical exchange has also come to the radio – the Shanghai East Radio Company and the WFMT Radio Network signed a deal in which American orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, are broadcast weekly on Shanghai stations and programs from the Shanghai music festival are broadcast in the United States.
Rebecca Chen is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a graduate student at Georgetown University.