The New Colombo Plan has helped bring student musicians from Australia and Hong Kong together to make beautiful music.
Fifteen students – 13 cellists and two pianists – from the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (MCM), based at the University of Melbourne, took part in an immersive, nine-day program 'Connecting Strings' in Hong Kong in February 2017.
The project was part of the New Colombo Plan Mobility Program, which funds semester-based or short-term study, internships, mentorships, practicums and research in 40 host locations across the Indo-Pacific region.
Hosted by the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts (APA), MCM students joined a specially designed 'Academy Cello Week' that had them learning the finer points of classical musicianship with their Chinese peers.
The project culminated in a gala performance in Hong Kong, featuring cello ensembles and orchestras made up of student and professional musicians from Melbourne and Hong Kong.
Cellist Oscar Woinarski described the program as a wonderful opportunity to learn about another culture.
"I enjoyed it a lot – it was wonderful to be able to absorb both the cultural and musical experience," he said.
It has whetted his appetite for studying abroad and he is now considering his future options.
The students took part in masterclasses, workshops and orchestras, including piano, cello, string and chamber music sessions.
"We premiered a Chinese piece, which was with performed traditional Chinese instruments with cello orchestration," Oscar said.
A highlight of the program was the commissioning of a new work "Dance to the Eastern Clouds", by Clarence Mak from the APA, which was premiered by students from both institutions.
He wrote it for two traditional Chinese instruments, the Ruan and Yueqin, and nine cellos.
On their return, students entertained Melbourne music lovers with a performance at Melba Hall, where they performed a number of ensemble pieces and shared some of their New Colombo Plan experiences through a slideshow from their visit to Hong Kong.
Dr. Alvin Wong, a Lecturer in Strings (Cello), at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, said the short-term mobility program was a great exchange experience for the students.
"I was surprised it was one of the first mobility programs created for music students," said Dr Wong, who accompanied his students on the project.
He encourages other university staff involved in the creative arts to consider developing projects that can take advantage of the New Colombo Plan Mobility Program.
You can find out more about their program in the below video.