The NIU Chinese Music Ensemble was the first college Chinese music group in the U.S. and currently is the only one in Illinois. Established by Professor Kuo-Huang Han in the 1970s, it gave several national and international concert performances between 1976 and 1978. Inactive for several years, the ensemble was reinstated in 2010. Members of the ensemble learn to play assorted authentic Chinese instruments, such as er-hu (two-string fiddle), yang-qin (hammered dulcimer), pipa (long-neck lute), liu qin and yueh-qin (small lute), ruan (medium lute), dizi (bamboo flute), sheng (mouth organ), and luo-gu (percussion instruments). Western instruments such as cello and double-bass are also included to provide the bass line for the orchestra. The addition of the Chinese music ensemble to the already-flourishing NIU world music curriculum has helped broaden both the musical and cultural horizon of our students and the NIU community at large. With the mission of promoting Chinese culture through learning its music tradition, the NIU Chinese Music Ensemble promotes Chinese cultural awareness and understanding through this unique performing art and ultimately helps increase the cultural diversity in the American multicultural society.
Individual lessons and group rehearsals make up the major part of the curriculum, and Chinese musical instruments are available for short-term loan on a semester basis. In addition, members of the ensemble will also be introduced to basic Chinese music theory, the standard repertoire of Chinese instrumental and chamber music, and knowledge about performance practice along with the aesthetic values and symbolism of Chinese traditional music.
Originally from Taiwan, Yung-Hsin Chen is a Chinese music expert specializing in many instruments including the pipa (lute), erhu (two-string fiddle), and some other types of lutes. She is also an experienced modern Chinese orchestra conductor. Throughout her career as a soloist, instructor, and conductor, she has won a great number of awards including several first-place medals in many regional and national music competitions in Taiwan. A graduate of the National Taiwan College of Art (now National Taiwan University of Art) with outstanding recognition, she was recruited into several prestigious Chinese orchestras and was sent on government-sponsored tours to France, the U.S., South Africa, and several South American countries. She has performed in major cities in 16 states, Disneyland in LA, and several universities including Stanford University and the University of California, Irvine. This year (2010-2011) she is in charge of the newly-formed Chinese Music Ensemble. In addition to directing it, she gives private lessons on several Chinese instruments to members of the ensemble.
To learn more about the pedagogical framework of NIU’s Chinese Music Ensemble, click on Dr. Jui-Ching Wang’s article featured in College Music Symposium, 53
Selected Chinese Music Ensemble Performance Clips:
(Prof. Yung-Hsin Chen directed the Chinese music ensemble to accompany Royce Rachuk on the Chinese dizi in the 2013 World Music Concert)