GARY | As a result of a budding relationship between the Gary Community School Corp., the Confucius Institute at Valparaiso University and China, students at Wirt/Emerson Visual and Performing Arts will learn more about Chinese music and will visit the country in April.
About 25 members of the high school orchestra played "Jasmine Flower," a popular Chinese folk song, for visiting dignitaries Friday. The song dates to the 18th century and gained popularity in China and abroad.
Gary school Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt highlighted her trip to China from Oct. 10 to 20 and introduced new instructor Yupeng Lan, who teaches students at Wirt/Emerson about Chinese musical instruments. Lan, who arrived in September, will teach at Wirt/Emerson for two years.
Pruitt said youngsters at Gary's performing arts school also have developed a sister relationship with Hang Zhou, the top performing arts school in China. Students from the Chinese school visited Wirt-Emerson a couple of weeks ago, she said.
Pruitt said she learned many things in China that she would like to emulate in the Gary schools related to discipline and academics.
"Discipline is very important in China," she said. "I looked at their classroom structure and their discipline. They focus on academics and the importance of education. They also focus on the way we treat one another. We have differences but we have some things in common."
Wirt/Emerson orchestra instructor Rovelli Grib said some of this came about as a result of the Great Lakes Festival, where many of his students expressed an interest in learning more about China. He said he was talking with professor Jianyun Meng, the American director of the Confucius Institute at Valparaiso University, about some things they could do to expose his students to Chinese culture.
In addition to Lan, Pruitt said a second Chinese teacher will arrive in Gary in November. She said that teacher will be a language arts instructor, who will be assigned to work at elementary schools Bailly, Banneker and the Frankie McCullough Academy for Girls.
The relationship is part of what Meng said is an effort to help Northwest Indiana students become more familiar with China and the Chinese culture. Meng also works closely with Jiang Baozhen, Chinese director of the Confucius Institute.
As orchestra students took pictures of the dignitaries and put away their instruments, they said they were very excited to learn about Chinese music and the upcoming trip.
Junior Khari Tucker, 17, who plays the viola, said, "I'm looking forward to touring China and checking out their orchestra."