Cultural exchange: China and Canada come together through the arts

Chen Yaya (Shadow) and Yuan Yuan Zhang (Vivian) © David Ramalho

One of the highlights of the 2013 National Arts Centre Orchestra’s historic performance and education tour of China was its encounter with the National Centre for the Performing Arts Orchestra (NCPA).

The NCPA presented the NAC Orchestra at their incredible concert hall in Beijing and were instrumental in the organization of many of the Canadian ensemble’s 80 education activities. It was the start of a beautiful friendship, the kind that illustrates the growing ties between Canada and China.

And as all good friends do, they make time to visit each other at home. The National Arts Centre acted as one of the catalysts that led to the NCPA Orchestra 2014 Tour of Canada and the U.S., which comes to the NAC in Ottawa on November 9.

Another tangible legacy of the NAC Orchestra’s China Tour began in the summer of 2014 through an initiative called the Arts Administration China/Canada Cultural Program and coordinated by the National Arts Centre.

It involves eight Chinese arts administration students who are taking part in cultural residencies at four prestigious Canadian arts organizations: The Banff Centre, the Stratford Festival, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the National Arts Centre.

Each institution is hosting two Chinese students for eight to 12-week residencies. These residencies provide exposure to the specific cultural strengths of each institution, such as the world-renowned expertise of the NAC in new media and long-distance learning applications. Marketing and social media applications, production techniques, audience development and building links to other cultures are some of the other areas explored by the students as they absorb the internal operations of the Canadian institutions. 

“I am learning so much,” says 24 year-old Yuan Yuan Zhang (Vivian), a student from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, who is shadowing National Arts Centre Music Department staff as they prepare to welcome the NCPA Orchestra to Ottawa. “People are very nice here and I’m able to get much professional experience,” adds Zhang, who is also gaining insights on how to produce online videos, podcasts, webcasts and distance learning events under the direction of the NAC’s New Media Producer, Maurizio Ortolani.

For her part, Ya Ya Chen (Shadow), also 24, from the Nanjing University of the Arts, is learning about how the NAC goes about planning and executing a number of events such as last September’s Culture Days and the NAC Orchestra’s Family Adventures pre-concert activities. She also gets to attend orchestra season planning meetings with the Music and Marketing Departments, and is learning about how the NAC Foundation goes about fundraising for a large cultural institution. 

China is currently on an ambitious program of building concert halls and other cultural entities that require trained leadership. Hence, enrolment in Arts Administration programs is burgeoning. Chinese conservatories and other education institutions have asked Canada, through the NAC, to provide inspiration and experiential learning to top students who can provide leadership to the rapidly expanding number of arts institutions in China.

“The NAC wanted to create a meaningful and measurable legacy which would enhance and further the Tour’s goals of cultural understanding and cultural exchange between our two nations,” said Peter Herrndorf, President and CEO of the National Arts Centre. “This initiative is a wonderful partnership that will allow us to deepen our friendship and lead to even more collaboration in the years to come.”

The six other Chinese students from four Chinese partner institutions are doing similar residencies at the following Canadian institutions:

Stratford Festival: Si Meng Huang (Sebrina) from the Shanghai Theatre Academy, and Qiu Tong Chen (Carolyn) from the Xinghai Conservatory of Music in Guangzhou;

The Banff Centre: Zi Yan Zhong (Joanne) from the Xinghai Conservatory of Music in Guangzhou and Zhi Cong Ma (Vera) from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music;

Toronto Symphony Orchestra: Qun Yu (Margot) from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, and Ya Zhen Liang (Dora) from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

Related events

Join our email list for the latest updates!