Professor Scheurman with Chinese students. Photo by Paula Lugar
Professor Scheurman with Chinese students. Photo by Paula Lugar

By Paula Lugar, with Paul J. Seeling, Gateway News

MARTELL, WI – Good music rocked the new Martell Town Hall to a standing room only crowd at the Saturday, October 22, 2017 concert event. The Doq of Roq, Denny Cooper opened the musical happening with a short sing-along to welcome the crowd, that included 24 visiting Chinese college students who joined the local musicians in the last concert of the year in acoustically divine old Martel Town Hall. 

The visiting students are participating in a study program created by the University of Wisconsin – River Falls (UWRF), to allow the University and the community to “experience China.” This group is comprised of students at Zhejiang International Studies University (ZISU) who are spending one year at UWRF in a 1+1+2 program. Music truly crosses cultural barriers. Local musician Jeff Pajac played cowboy songs that he had recently played for local area 2nd graders. The cowboy culture is an alien culture to many of today’s tech savvy 2nd graders.

Another cultural shakeup came when Joan Malloy and her Buds, a group of talented young violinists, played Beatles music including Eleanor Rigby on violin.

After the intermission, the Chinese students sang Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star in English and Chinese. Then, they offered another song to the tune of “Frere Jacques.” Following that song, they engaged the audience by asking what the song was. Of course, the audience responded with both the French and English names to this well-known song.

They were wrong. It was a song of the Chase of Two Tigers. In each verse, there was a different problem. One of the tigers had no eyes and the other had no tail in the first verse. The song is used to teach young children in China about body parts, much like our ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ song known by most preschoolers.

This group of Chinese college visitors is studying elementary education at Zhejiang International Studies University (ZISU). They spend 1 year at UWRF in a 1+1+2 program. Their first year is at ZISU, and then they come to UWRF for a year before returning to ZISU for their final 2 years. Their UWRF experience includes teacher education classes, ELT (English language) work and practicum experience in the local elementary classrooms.

Their UWRF Professor Geoff Scheurman and his wife attended the Martel concert with the students. Dr. Weiwei Chen, a Professor of Educational Psychology at ZISU also participated in the event.

After the music, there was a potluck dinner that included an array of foods guaranteed to please any palate. The Chinese students shared Coke chicken wings and two other dishes.

I had the opportunity to sit and talk with four of the students during the potluck. The visitors enthusiastically shared many things.

They talked about the long 13-hour journey to arrive here from China. The students aren’t lonely because they can visit their families via FaceTime on the Internet. Some were absolutely baffled when the button lock on the bathroom door held them captive.

These visiting scholars see cultural differences that they appreciate. One student said she enrolled in a dance school that allows her to express herself in a way she cannot in China. For their stay here in the US, each has adopted an American first name because their Chinese names are too hard for us to say.

I agree. I could not repeat the names that they shared with me. I shared that my adopted Korean nieces have U.S. first names, but their middle names are their original Korean names.

There is one problematic issue with Western Wisconsin hospitality that the students have experienced. Our limited public transportation required a coordinated effort to create car pools to transport the 24 students to Martell from River Falls.

That same issue might make it difficult for them to get to schools outside of River Falls for their practicum time. Professor Scheurman suggested that opportunities at the Spring Valley Elementary School would be welcomed.

This was the last Martel music event for 2017. It included a tribute to Sue West, who introduced the venue to our local musicians years ago. West recently moved with her son to New York, where she continues her music tradition. She is and will be missed in our community!

The full musician line up included: MC Denny Cooper, Beth Ray with Grandmothers Gold, Bud and Pat Matheson, Derek Washington, Jeff Pajac, Loren Hass, Steve Heath and, of course Fred Pierce who also ran the sound board.

The Mathesons have been doing Musicians Night Out along with others at Sneakers monthly. They will be giving up that gig after December, but will continue to play for nursing homes. 

Look forward everyone to a 2018 spring concert in Martell for more good toe-tappin’ music!