The University of Michigan and China - A Brief History


President Coleman in China, 2010.

 President Coleman, 2010



The University of Michigan’s relationship with China has been growing in recent years, and the Symphony Band tour will deepen the alliances between the UM and various Chinese constituencies. In 2005, a delegation led by President Mary Sue Coleman traveled to China to launch partnerships designed to enable the UM’s entire community to reach its fullest potential through cultural exchanges in an increasingly globalized world.  President Coleman returned to China in 2010

Through the joint efforts of Madame XU Lin, Director General of the Chinese Language Council International (Hanban), and Senior Vice Provost Lester Monts, the Confucius Institute at the University of Michigan (CI-UM) was established on the Ann Arbor campus in 2009. The CI-UM’s primary focus on Chinese arts is unique among the nearly 300 Confucius Institutes located around the world.

The CI-UM seeks to strengthen educational ties with China, develop Chinese arts experiences on the Michigan campus, and increase intercultural understanding between the people of China and the United States. The Symphony Band’s visit to China is an important symbol of goodwill between the UM and many Chinese agencies in addition to being an important opportunity for students to experience Chinese culture firsthand.

The tour also marks the 50th anniversary of the now historic 1961 Symphony Band tour of the Soviet Union, eastern Europe, and the Middle East, when over the course of 15 weeks, the Symphony Band served as ambassadors under the sponsorship of the U.S. State Department. The American Embassy in Moscow wrote that those students “were a model group in every way—in friendliness, in self-discipline, in mature conduct, and, most of all, in talent. No performing group … has matched their success in terms of what we usually call good public relations.”

The 1961 tour was among the first cultural exchanges with the former Soviet Union, and was a transformative experience for students, faculty, and audiences. The University of Michigan and the School of Music, Theatre & Dance anticipate that the tour to China will be a similarly rewarding experience. While on tour, students will have the opportunity to perform as professionals in a variety of concert situations, to act as musical ambassadors through cooperative learning and teaching opportunities at Chinese universities and conservatories, to visit many historical and cultural landmarks, and to better understand the world of their future. The tour will provide Chinese students and audiences with the opportunity to interact with an American-style symphony band and hear new American compositions in addition to traditional classics and works by Chinese composers.

School of Music, Theatre & Dance © 2010 Regents of the University of Michigan