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By Johnny McDonald

After two years of planning, the San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory (SDYS) will celebrate its 70th anniversary with four concerts in China.

They’ll perform in Beijing’s Forbidden City, Yantai — where they will perform twice — and Shanghai. The concerts take place between June 23 and July 5.

The traveling group will consist of 108 musicians and 17 others, including staff and a video crew.

The tour orchestra, made up of advanced high school-age students, will be accompanied by select SDYS alumni and current professional San Diego Symphony musicians.

Dalouge Smith, SDYS president and CEO, said Qualcomm, Inc. is the presenting sponsor for the trip.

“We had sent Dr. Sidney Yin, our artistic administrator, to China earlier to build a relationship with the different concert halls,” Smith said. “We had to have the cooperation from various entities there.

“The Forbidden City concert hall comes under the government system,” he continued. “We also dealt with local officials in Yantai, while Shanghai was more independent.”

Upon Dr. Yin’s return, he met with board chair June Shillman to put the tour pieces together.

“This is a total education program for young kids,” said Shillman, who also is president of the San Diego — Yantai Friendship Society. “My goal is to create a positive relationship with another culture. This will be a large benefit for the students.”

In Yantai, San Diego’s sister city, they had extensive communication and support.

“This is a great opportunity to celebrate the history of our organizations,” said Music Director Jeff Edmons, who is also celebrating his 20th year with the symphony.

“It provides a way for musicians to share talent with an insight and appreciation for the world of musicians and it creates a lifetime of memories,” Edmons continued. “This is a wonderful artistic project that celebrates each individual and also what can be achieved as a group. Collectively, we will share our music with new audiences.”

Dr. Yin, a classical pianist, will play George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” as the soloist in Forbidden City. Piano solos also will also be played by staffers, Dr. Jessie Chang and Dr. Xun Pan.

There will be a variety of cultural activities on the trip, including visits to the Great Wall and Red Square.

Smith pointed out that in addition to fundraising and the Qualcomm sponsorship, the students are also paying a portion of the costs.

“China is at the early stages of developing youth symphonies and in September a delegation from Yantai will come to San Diego,” Smith said.

A free Bon Voyage Concert in Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on June 18, in partnership with the city of San Diego and the San Diego Museum of Art.

For more information about SDYC’s Bon Voyage Concert or the China tour, visit

—Johnny McDonald can be reached at

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San Diego Youth Symphony