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By Dalouge Smith

Read on the Union Tribune San Diego here

We live in a world of greater and greater connectivity. People come together through digital communication, international trade and a web of daily flights between continents. Yet this exchange of data, goods and population does not guarantee understanding between cultures or countries. To achieve understanding, we must share experiences that reflect our common humanity.

Music is one of the most important mediums we have to experience all we share in the world. Music weaves its spell across cultures and languages. It holds the attention of children and adults. Music taps our emotions and creates memories that last a lifetime. Ultimately, its mix of sound and time binds together performers and listeners into a unique community.

We live with this power of music at San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory (SDYS) every day. The more than 600 musicians enrolled in our Balboa Park Program come from families representing the full diversity of the region. Once they start rehearsing, they achieve a new identity as ensemble members committed to sharing music with audiences. It is this sharing that reaffirms music’s binding potential.

This year marks our 70th anniversary of inspiring young people to pursue the art and rigor of making music together. With our decades of commitment to excellence, we have taught thousands of youth to add hope and beauty to the world. We’ve done this at home by working to rebuild community support for music in schools through our Community Opus Project.

Our global view has also made us the region’s preeminent international cultural ambassador for 50 years. We have 13 tours to 18 countries behind us. This summer, San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservator will go abroad again. We return to China for the first time since 1982 to create personal and cultural exchanges that will be life changing and everlasting. Later this month, 80 students and 28 alumni will travel to Beijing, Shanghai and San Diego’s sister city Yantai to discover a very different country.

In 1982, China was newly open to Americans and our concert in Shanghai was the first satellite broadcast of a cultural event out of the country to the United States. San Diego was only just beginning to diversify as a region and economy.

Now, China is a 21st century nation and San Diego is a 21st century region. Both depend more and more on highly skilled workers with the ability to move with ease and understanding across cultures.

This summer’s tour highlights the importance of this with its two key tour partners: Qualcomm and San Diego Yantai Friendship Society. Together we achieve the perfect blend of music, high tech and friendship necessary for our local musicians and Chinese audiences to share meaningful experiences together and transform lives through music.

Our musicians will be ambassadors that connect our nations. Their concert in Beijing will be the opening performance of a national youth arts festival at the Forbidden City Concert Hall. Days later, we will be immersed in traditional Chinese music as we share a morning with student musicians at the Central Conservatory. In Yantai, ours will be the first youth orchestra to ever perform in the city as we aim to inspire the growth of more youth music opportunities there. Our tour concludes with a marquee performance on July 4 at Shanghai’s internationally renowned Oriental Arts Center for families and children.

We are excited to also share the sights and sounds of the tour with San Diego before, during and after the tour. Performers will post photos and reflections on our Chinese Melodies blog while we are traveling. A documentary team from San Diego State University will join the tour to create a film for broadcast after our return.

San Diego residents can be part of the tour story too. A free public “Bon Voyage” concert will be held in front of the San Diego Museum of Art on the Plaza de Panama on June 18 at 7:30 p.m. We offer this concert to celebrate our 70th anniversary and the centennial of our Balboa Park home. Please join us to cheer on the musical ambassadors of San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory before they deliver their musical message of shared human experience to the people of China.

Smith is president and CEO of San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory.

San Diego Youth Symphony