Bill’s Asia Travelogue 2010
Greetings from the President of Idyllwild Arts. The Summer Program of 2010 and the Arts Academy school year of 2010-11 will be my final year as President of this wonderful institution. I have enjoyed many extraordinary experiences as the founder of Idyllwild Arts Academy and wish to share some thoughts with you about the international students and families that make up an important part of our community.
Each year since the initial year of IAA (1986-7) I have traveled to Asia to recruit students for the Academy, make connections with young people’s arts programs and visit the families of current students. The trips scheduled for October 24 to November 8 of 2010 would seem to be no different, except for the fact that it be my last, and therefore, is fraught with memories of all the years.
I met Director of Special Events, Theresa Teel, Director of Parent and Alumni Relations Alison Yates, and Dean of Admission/Financial Aid Marek Pramuka in Tokyo for the initial stop. Japan was a new global economic power in the 1980s and almost immediately its affluent parents sought a more flexible and supportive education for their children as well as access to the remarkable system of American higher education. My wife, Carolyn and I visited Japan in 1987 as guests of Masaru Kurahashi and his company, International Student Advisors. We were fascinated by the country’s culture, its people and traditions. Immediately young artists from Japan enrolled at the Academy and we were thrust into the role of teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), dealing with different cultures in an American boarding school, and serving as substitute parents for children from far lands. Carolyn eventually became a full time ESL teacher and the Chair of the ESL Department for many years at the Academy. She served as a second mother to many of the international students when they first arrived at IAA. Over the years these Japanese students and their families have become good friends. So, it was with great joy that I recognized our alumni in Tokyo. Rui Inaba Visual Art ’96 and Aguri Ishimori, Visual Art ’97 brought their young son and showed photos of their new jewelry work in their online business. Rui studied at the Boston Museum School and Aguri at RISD. Reiko Natsukawa, Visual Art ‘01 helped to organize the dinner and works now for Audi Japan. When our staff informed Reiko that I was retiring she blurted out, “…but he is our forever master!” (The staff has been using the title ever since!) Sho Ikushima, Dance ‘04 was dancing in New York and Amsterdam after graduating from the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU and recently returned home to Japan. His brother Youki Iksuhima, Theatre ‘04 is acting in Tokyo. Marisa Hamamoto, Dance ‘99 went straight to a dance company after IAA and later graduated from TAMA College of Art in Tokyo. She is dancing in Japan after a childhood in California. We told stories, exchanged gifts, expanded memories and caught up on all our friends. I had great fun signing and distributing the 25th anniversary t-shirts with my likeness on the front.
The next morning we traveled by plane to Seoul, South Korea for a four day visit with our wonderful Korean families. The Korean parents’ dinner was well attended and our trustee, Jae Sub Chung, explained many things to the 29 people present. The Korean mothers will meet regularly with his wife and he and the fathers are planning a golf outing. IA has two Korean trustees and is in the process of selecting more as students graduate. It is always a pleasure to see the parents looking joyfully at the framed photos of their children that we bring to the dinner. When they introduce themselves, they hold up the photo to explain who they are! After the dinner I met personally with Michal Emanovsky, Music ’97, who is associate principal horn with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. Michal was a young Czech musician who came to IAA with support from the Charter 77 Foundation and our scholarship fund. After college at the Curtis Institute of Music and graduate school at the Juilliard School, he was selected to be an orchestra member in Seoul. Go Eun Kim, Visual Art ’97 also attended. She is working to develop the Korean global healthcare industry. It was wonderful to see them and to think of all the outstanding Korean students who have attended IAA. We spent the next four days meeting with current parents. Special dinners were hosted by Mrs. Jung Soon Lee, mother of Jim Bum, Visual Art ‘10 and Mr. Young Jun Park, father of Hyo Been, Visual Art ‘09. Mr. Park is a member of the Board of Governors and has become a close personal friend over the years of our work in Korea. Our Korean graduates are key leaders at the Seoul Arts Center, artists leading fashion and design industries, owner of Kukje Gallery and performers or administrators in the classical music scene. They represent the quality of study they have accomplished at Idyllwild Arts Academy. During the trip I was working out in the gym at our hotel and a smiling young man introduced himself as Tae Ho Park, Interdisciplinary Arts, Class of 2002. He was surprised to see me! He graduated from University of Michigan in Performing Art Technology; both music composition and sound engineering. He is currently serving his obligatory term in the army while he learns Chinese and Japanese, composes music and prepares to be one of those who take the new field of games and gaming from a technical enterprise to the level of an art form. We had a great discussion and visit and I was able to listen to a number of his compositions. Memories of Seoul will be with me forever. My latest vision is of Mr. Kyungro Lee, of the Seoul Language Institute bowing to me in farewell as we parted the final evening of my visit. It was a gesture of thanks and mutual respect.
After four busy days, we boarded the plane for the flight to Beijing, China where we hosted a parent dinner that evening. In China, we met with 15 parents to discuss the school year and all aspects of our program. It was a lovely event emphasizing the extraordinary growth of enrollments from China. We have always had a small enrollment of musicians but it expanded quickly this year to 34 students as Chinese families focus on obtaining a US and international education for their children to face the new world. The parents were especially interested in the careers of our early Chinese graduates who are in such roles as principal oboe of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, performing pianist who was a medal winner in Tchaikovsky competition, principal cellist in the San Diego Symphony, violist in the Detroit Symphony and many, many more. One of the pleasant outcomes of 25 years of history is the ability to point out how our students are doing in their careers in the world of the arts. The next day, I met with Linda Donahue, Minister-Counselor for Consular Affairs at the US embassy in Beijing to reaffirm our interest in qualified Chinese applicants and to discuss the student visa process. She was very gracious about the application process and our school’s reputation as well as enjoying the alumni materials. We both discussed the difficulties inherent in student visa regulations due to laws enacted following the 9-11 disasters in the US. We also discussed the IAA graduates who were working in China or both China and the US.
The next two days were in Shanghai, China where the city had just completed the closing ceremony for the international exposition. We hosted a lovely parent dinner in our hotel near the Bund in this historic city and answered all questions. Many of these parents were new to the US and IAA so we had long discussions about communications, college admission and other important matters. I was thrilled and surprised to receive a beautiful plaque celebrating my 25 years and upcoming retirement from one of the parents. It was a pleasant and helpful evening. Theresa, Alison and I strolled along the Bund at sunset the other evening in Shanghai. To our surprise and amusement, a number of Chinese rushed up to be photographed with us. I suggested that it was the tall and large, white bearded President who attracted them, but no—it was the beautiful red headed and blond ladies in my company that seemed to be the objects of interest! What a different experience it was to be in a prospering and developing China where internationalization is coming to the fore. My early memories of working with the most talented Chinese students were of clandestine auditions held in hotel rooms and out of the way spots. We also had to deal with denials of visas from the Chinese government and from the US government. In those days, students were dismissed from their Chinese schools because they dared apply to a school in the US and faced really difficult problems. Now, the entire process seems to more open and the opportunities endless for these remarkable young artists.
The next short flight set down in Taipei, Taiwan for a whirlwind visit. Taiwan was the second country to send students to IAA at just about the same time as the initial Japanese students in the late 1980s. A Chinese musician and entrepreneur named Young Kai Chang met our horn instructor, Kurt Snyder, and came to visit the school. What followed from this long-term friendship was the enrollment of many talented music students from Taiwan. They form a solid core of our alumni in such roles as Professor of Viola (and International Concert Artist) at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory, adjunct faculty at the University of Southern California and the Colburn Conservatory of Music, principal viola and viola section member of the Taiwan National Symphony, bassoonist and horn in the second symphony in Taiwan, percussionist in Taiwan and the US, horn in the San Diego Symphony and on and on. Seven parents of our 15 families came to dinner and we enjoyed a lovely evening of discussion and information. We now have Taiwanese students in film, visual art and interdisciplinary arts as well as music and dance. On one of our two days in Taipei, two sets of parents took the three of us to the newly re-designed Palace Museum of Fine Art which contains an amazing collection of artistic treasures from China. Prior to the tour, we lunched at the famous Silks Road Restaurant. After all the years I spent holding auditions, driving and flying all over the island, it was quite emotional to say goodbye. Perhaps the best place would be amidst the visual treasures of Chinese culture in that amazing museum.
The last two days of our trip were in Hong Kong. This city has been a source of talented students over the years and we enjoyed a dinner with two sets of current parents. Hong Kong is always a fascinating city with its own culture, but my initial memory of visiting there was to make contact with arts organizations and arts educators in the late 1980s. Richard Richardson (former Chief of Security during the years HK was a British colony was then the Director of Development at Idyllwild) and his lovely wife Barbara hosted Carolyn and me in the city. It so happened that our earliest major benefactors, Dr. and Mrs. Richard MacNeal were making a ocean going tour on the Queen Elizabeth II at the same time. They docked in Hong Kong to find the Lowmans and Richardsons waving from the dock. We dined and toured and planned for the future—-but none of us knew how extraordinary Idyllwild Arts Academy would become. We only hoped. When I think of how much has been accomplished in helping young artists to achieve their dreams and enriching the world by educating its new generations of artistic leaders, this place in the world and the people involved become the most pleasant of memories.
Bill Lowman, President