Patricia Sawin, a UNC American studies professor, has worked with Yi for most of the academic year.
“What she is most interested in is … singing American songs that she can go back and perform in China to give people an idea of what people sing in America.”
Music professor Louise Toppin has also been working with Yi.
Since English is not Yi’s first language, Toppin said the language barrier was slightly challenging at first.
“One thing about music is that it’s so universal that I was able to express or show her what I was looking for,” she said.
Sawin said the cultural exchange allows for the opportunity to learn about Chinese culture in ways that were previously overlooked.
“Until a year ago scholars in China were only studying politics and economics,” she said. “They weren’t interested in culture.”
Since UNC does not teach Chinese repertoire, Toppin asked if Yi would teach a handful of students how to sing traditional Chinese songs. Tonight’s recital will feature both Yi and her students.
Allison Thomas, one of Yi’s students, said Chinese musical technique was difficult to grasp at first.
“My piece required a very nasally and bright sound,” she said. “But (Yi) did a great job of showing us how.”
Yi said she has been impressed with her students’ work.
“They’re so smart,” she said. “They learned very quickly and memorized it without paper.”
Yi said she found American music to have a very different style than Chinese music.
“Western music needs more breath, and Chinese music focuses on lyrics,” she said.
Toppin said Yi’s class has been a great experience for her students and that tonight’s concert will be of interest to many.
“It should draw anyone interested in Chinese culture.”
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