Summer Music Academy

Students and staff pose on Tuesday, July 25, 2017, with Summer Music Academy performers Marvin Moon, Joseph Yungen, Charlie Powers, Shuting Yao and Brent Weber.

FROSTBURG — A diverse group of students gathered last week in the Performing Arts Center at Frostburg State University with common goals — to improve their musical abilities and prepare a concert by the end of the week.

This is the second year that Karen Lau has run the Summer Music Academy at FSU. Around half of the 24 students were from China, while the other half were from the U.S.

Summer Music Academy staff members picked up the Chinese students at Dulles International Airport.

“I wanted to be a bridge between Asian countries and give students who are interested a chance to come here and study music,” said Lau.

The students have a diverse musical background. Some play wind instruments, others play string instruments and some are vocalists. The students are sorted into chamber groups by instrument. They perform a concert on the last day of the program, where each chamber group performs one piece and a large ensemble plays two pieces.

Lau said the Summer Music Academy also held nightly concerts in which musicians from groups such as the National Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra perform. Lau and other instructors find the performers through personal connections. Teachers at FSU also perform in the concerts.

“When (the guest artists) come, we get to experience world-class instruction and recitals five days in a row,” said instructor Huai-En Tsai.

Some students, such as Valerie Zhou from Frostburg, heard about the camp after attending the concerts last year.

“Around here, we don’t have a lot of big master classes like the ones the camp offers,” said Zhou, who plays the clarinet.

Throughout the week, the students attend master classes in the mornings and chamber and orchestra rehearsals in the afternoon. They attend each evening’s concert. Last Thursday, the students took a day trip to Rocky Gap State Park, according to Tsai.

The students from the U.S. gained a wider world view and learned more about their instruments and performing.

“I liked getting to learn from different people. I got to see different views on different things,” said saxophone player Zack Costello from Ellicott City.

“I’ve gained a new perspective on music. Here, I have a voice,” said Celeste Kane from Silver Spring. This was Kane’s second year at the camp, where she played the violin.

The students from China not only improved their musical abilities, but were also exposed to a different culture and style of teaching. Lau said the students also improve their English-speaking abilities.

“I rarely had the chance to speak English when I was in China, so I wasn’t very confident in my English. After I came here, I realized that all I needed to do was say enough so that people around me understood me. I’m a lot more confident now,” said Jun-fei Zhang, a violin player from Jiang Xi province in China.

Some Chinese parents came with the students, said Tsai. They either tour the area or go to class with their children during the day.

“We felt as though we were familiar with this country, but at the same time it’s a strange land for us,” said Jing Wang, whose daughter attended the Summer Music Academy. “Having our daughter attend this camp gave all of us a good opportunity to visit America and get to know the country better.”

“We hope that there are more activities like this. It makes people from different countries get to know each other,” said Feng Wang, Jing Wang’s husband.

Lau said she hopes the program will spread into continents outside of Asia in the future.

All of the students, whether Chinese or American, were given a setting in which they could learn more about their instruments and interact with students with a similar interest.

“It’s nice to have people who understand how hard you work to achieve what you achieve,” said Kane.

Contact Makea Luzader at

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