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Bells ring on Bell Street for MTSU Chinese music center opening [+VIDEO]

With a performance of replica ancient bells, the first and only center of its kind in North America opened at Middle Tennessee State University Thursday, March 17.

The grand opening of the Center for Chinese Music and Culture was attended by a standing-room-only crowd of international dignitaries and university supporters on the first floor of the new Andrew Woodfin Miller Sr. Education Center at 503 Bell St.

Dr. Mei Han, director of the MTSU Center for Chinese Music and Culture, speaks at the Thursday, March 17, grand opening dedication ceremony in the Miller Education Center on Bell Street. (MTSU photos by J. Intintoli)

Dr. Mei Han, director of the MTSU Center for Chinese Music and Culture, speaks at the Thursday, March 17, grand opening dedication ceremony in the Miller Education Center on Bell Street. (MTSU photos by J. Intintoli)

Flanked by the flags of China and the United States, officials hailed the center’s creation as a future hub for promoting not only music and culture but also language, business and trade.

Visitors to the 3,200-square-foot center will see a library, an archive, classrooms and a musical instrument gallery.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee, who has visited China every year since 1999, highlighted the educational component of the center as a stimulus for classroom learning.

“The center will also … design curricula that includes Chinese music as an integral part of the general education offerings reaching more than 3,000 MTSU undergraduate students,” said McPhee.

Madam Hao Jingxi, vice president of Hangzhou Normal University, MTSU’s sister institution in China, announced through a translator that a donation of 50 new folk instruments is on its way to the center.

“We will be able to provide graduate assistantships this coming year to two Chinese graduate students majoring in music in the School of Music,” said Dr. Michael Parkinson, school director.

In fact, MTSU will have its own Chinese music ensemble next fall, the only one of its kind within 500 miles, Parkinson said.

Surrounded by numerous instruments made of wood, metal and gourd adorning the walls of the center, director Mei Han noted that chances to appreciate her own culture during her youth in China were limited, but expanded greatly during her time in the West.

“The experience of learning about different cultures and opportunities to interact with people from other cultures is very powerful,” said Han, an ethnomusicologist specializing in Chinese music.

“It nurtures minds, deepens human connections and sparks innovation. Life becomes richer and more meaningful.”

Dignitaries cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the MTSU Center for Chinese Music and Culture March 17 in the Miller Education Center on Bell Street. They are, from left, Brad Bartel, university provost; Guanping

Dignitaries cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the MTSU Center for Chinese Music and Culture March 17 in the Miller Education Center on Bell Street. They are, from left, Dr. Brad Bartel, university provost; Dr. Guanping “Ping” Zheng, director of MTSU’s Confucius Institute; Madam Hao Jingxi, vice president of Hangzhou Normal University; MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee; Dr. Mei Han, director of the new center; state Sen. Bill Ketron, an MTSU alumnus; and Dr. Michael Parkinson, director of the MTSU School of Music.

State Sen. Bill Ketron read a letter from Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who will travel to China with Commissioner of Economic Development Randy Boyd in May to promote business opportunities from the state’s new development office there.

“Facilities like this can play a tremendous role in building bridges between different and diverse cultures, fostering greater understanding and spotlighting mutual opportunities for educational and economic growth,” Haslam wrote.

Students from the School of Music concluded the ceremony by playing a set of bronze chime bells built as a replica of those discovered in the tomb of the Marquis Yi of the Chinese state of Zeng. The originals date back to 433 BCE (Before the Common Era).

Simultaneously, a student played the qing, a set of limestone chimes which were always played with the bells in ancient times, Han said.

“It’s a balance, the yin and the yang, between masculinity and femininity,” Han added.

The center will establish regular public visits by local and regional public schools, seniors groups and other interested organizations, said Han, while also taking Chinese music education to various Middle Tennessee school boards.

Center for Chinese Music logo webMore than a repository for indigenous instruments, the center will collaborate with programs offered at MTSU, including those offered by the School of Music, College of Liberal Arts, and College of Media and Entertainment.

The university’s academic affairs division will be responsible for all educational functions of the center, including the director’s work and the creation of ensembles and courses in Chinese music.

An initial $1 million grant from Hanban Confucius Institute in Beijing made the center possible. Hanban is an organization sponsored by China’s education ministry that oversees more than 440 institutes in 120 countries.

MTSU’s own Confucius Institute, located in Peck Hall, strives to enhance understanding of Chinese language and culture, provides outreach to create collaboration between Tennessee communities and China and serves as a resource center for Chinese language, history and culture.

For more information about the Center for Chinese Music and Culture, contact Han at 615-898-5718 or mei.han@mtsu.edu, or visit http://mtsu.edu/chinesemusic.

— Gina Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

Randy Raine-Reusch, left, talks to Lee and Carol Martin at the March 17 grand opening and dedication ceremony for the MTSU Center for Chinese Music and Culture in the Miller Education Center on Bell Street.

Randy Raine-Reusch, left, talks to Lee and Carol Martin at the March 17 grand opening and dedication ceremony for the MTSU Center for Chinese Music and Culture in the Miller Education Center on Bell Street.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee speaks at the Thursday, March 17, grand opening and dedication ceremony of the Center for Chinese Music and Culture in the Miller Education Center on Bell Street.

MMTSU President Sidney A. McPhee speaks at the Thursday, March 17, grand opening and dedication ceremony of the Center for Chinese Music and Culture in the Miller Education Center on Bell Street.

Students Shelby Shelton, left, and Jeff Upshaw play a bronze replica of ancient bells at the March 17 grand opening dedication ceremony for the MTSU Chinese Music and Cultural Center in the Miller Education Center on Bell Street. In the background, student Trianne Newbrey plays the qing, a set of limestone chimes.

Students Shelby Shelton, left, and Jeff Upshaw play a bronze replica of ancient bells at the March 17 grand opening dedication ceremony for the MTSU Chinese Music and Cultural Center in the Miller Education Center on Bell Street. In the background, student Trianne Newbrey plays the qing, a set of limestone chimes.

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