By By Erin O. Stattel, AR NewsApril 27, 2011
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, April 27, 2011) -- Chinese and American cultural exchanges may have started with ping pong in the 70s, but the detente continues today with an upcoming string of joint performances by the People's Liberation Army Band with The U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own."
Throughout the month of May 2011, the People's Liberation Army Band will join The U.S. Army Concert Band, an ensemble of "Pershing's Own," for a series of concerts.
The series begins with a private performance at the Kennedy Center May 16, 2011, before moving on to perform public concerts in Philadelphia May 19, at the Academy of Music and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, May 21. A private performance for the United Nations General Assembly will also be included during the lineup.
"These types of events build trust and help build relationships," said Maj. Kevin Koerner, the China Desk Officer for the Army's G3-5-7.
The four performances of the two bands stem from former Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr.'s 2009 trip to China to meet with Chinese military counterparts, Koerner said.
The PLA Band will bring with it 65 musicians and 20 producers, conducted by Sr. Col. Yu Hai, to play alongside The U.S. Army Concert Band, which is also 65 members strong and is conducted by Col. Thomas Rotondi Jr., 8th leader and commander of The United States Army Band "Pershing's Own."
"This musical collaboration with our PLA Band counterparts not only represents the best of our respective cultures, it also serves as a shared experience from which both our great nations can learn more about one another," Rotondi said.
"As two great world powers, it is important for the Chinese and U.S. militaries to be able to work together," Koerner said. "Events like these are important and at the end of the day you walk away with a smile and a better understanding of one another."
Woody Goldberg, civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army, and a longtime friend of The U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own," said he is looking forward to the performances and the bonds that are forged as a result.
"Music can be an instrument for diplomacy and Americans have long been fascinated with Chinese cultural contributions," Goldberg said.
Goldberg listed several other examples of diplomacy-building events including the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the attention given to Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, two Chinese panda bears who call the Smithsonian National Zoo home, and the famed Ping Pong diplomacy which came about during the seventies.
"Music blows away the dust of daily life and crosses all borders," Goldberg said. "We have a broad audience of people who will be tuned in to this event and it is important that people realize what our Army does other than directly preserve national security. Using such a valued and vital instrument such as the U.S. Army Band, we send the message to Americans and to the Chinese that we welcome them."
The U.S. Army engages in military exchanges with China which include officer exchanges as well as cultural exchanges. The upcoming events mark the first time the PLA Band will be in the United States and it is the first time The U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own" will perform with the PLA Band.
People interested in seeing the performances can get tickets on the U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own" website at http://www.usarmyband.com/events/joint_concert_tour.html for more information about the performances.