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Music professors tour Asia

| Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Three Notre Dame music professors will spend the next two weeks on a tour of East Asia, offering performances and information sessions in an effort to recruit prospective students and raise the profile of the department of music.

From Oct. 7 to 19, professor of music Peter Smith, assistant professional specialist Tricia Park and associate professor of music John Blacklow will visit high schools and various institutions in Seoul, South Korea, and in Shanghai and Beijing, China, according to a University press release.

Smith, who also chairs the department of music and specializes in music theory, said this tour not only aims to recruit musically talented students and bring attention to Notre Dame’s “outstanding” department of music but also to strengthen connections with the University’s alumni network in Asia through a variety of lectures, masterclasses and recitals.

The team will focus its recruitment on 10 high schools in the three major Asian cities, Smith said.

“We will offer musical performances, masterclasses and information sessions about the music department and Notre Dame in general,” Smith said. “A masterclass is a learning experience in which one student performs for the faculty member … the teacher then offers instruction to the student but frames the advice in such a way that it will be … beneficial to the larger group as well.”

In addition to visiting schools, the professors will perform and teach at “significant” cultural and academic institutions, Smith said. Park, a violinist, and Blacklow, a pianist, will feature prominently in the performance events.

“The three of us will offer … [a] lecture and recital at the Capital Library in Beijing, in an event jointly hosted by the Library and the U.S. Embassy, designed to foster cultural exchange,” he said. “We will also visit Beijing University — the Harvard of China — where I will teach a seminar on musical romanticism and my colleagues Tricia Park and John Blacklow will … perform a full-length formal recital.”

In Shanghai and Beijing, the professors will also participate in “Discover ND” informational sessions, Smith said.

“I will offer an introduction, followed by a performance by professors Park and Blacklow, and then we will break into smaller groups to answer questions for prospective students and their families,” he said.

Smith said these information sessions reach a wider range of students and family members interested in Notre Dame, not just the “musically inclined.”

“But the musical performance is a special attraction, given the interest and value placed on Western classical music in Asia,” he said.

In Asia, both American education and musical instruction are held in high esteem, making the continent an ideal place to recruit international students, Smith said.

“There is a strong interest … in sending their best and brightest students to study in America,” Smith said. “In addition to the high academic standards … the Asian educational system places great emphasis on the study of music and Western classical music in particular.”

Blacklow said there is a more mainstream appreciation of classical music in the continent, and cites his experiences as a performer.

“… On some of my own previous concert tours to Korea and Japan, it would not be uncommon to have full audiences in large concert halls, which is much more rare over here,” he said. “I think this results in a population who develop a serious knowledge and love for classical music, which translates into talented performers who are eager to pursue music seriously, whether as a performer or a scholar.”

Notre Dame’s department of music has much to offer prospective students, Smith said.

“[We have] a first-rate faculty, first of all, with leading experts in both music scholarship and music performance,” he said.

Blacklow said Notre Dame’s well-rounded approach is vital to a performer’s musical development and also allows the student to pursue other fields of interest.

“Advanced knowledge of theory and history will make a performer play with the needed conviction and understanding — and serious study of an instrument provides a foundation for knowing music ‘from the inside out,’ as it were,” he said. “It is also beneficial that so many students are able to double-major here. Our most serious students go on to graduate school themselves, but we have also taught many wonderful musicians who choose to go on to other fields.”

Smith said compared with other schools, Notre Dame’s program is successful in offering instruction in both music theory and practice.

“Many liberal arts programs stress music scholarship more heavily, while many schools of music place a greater priority on performance — the music department at Notre Dame strikes a balance.”

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