A LOOK BACK AT 30 YEARS OF THE AMERICAN CHINESE ART SOCIETY 中華藝術協會三十年回顧
Thirty (30) years certainly signify a long span of time. After all, how many “thirty years” can one have in one’s lifetime? It may sound odd but in my mind I do not feel that “thirty years” are really that long. To me, for example, the Children Angel Chorus, which was the earliest group operated under the auspice of ACAS, still elicited such a strong feeling like it was just founded yesterday with their angel-like singings lingering on undeterred in my mind. The joint performance of a children operetta, which had not been done heretofore, by the Children Angel Chorus and the ACAS Youth Chamber Orchestra, was another utterly unforgettable experience. The memory still remains clear in my mind of the several young piano and violin competitions sponsored by ACAS early on that succeeded in introducing several promising youth musicians to the public. I also remember vividly the many practices and rehearsals by members of the Adults Chamber Chorus to better their singing skills and the feelings of satisfaction at the end of each session. Last, but not least, I would like to express my deep appreciation and respect to all ACAS Board members for their friendship and continuing support over the years.
Our story began in 1978 when Eddy and I decided to uproot our family of three from Taiwan and settled in the Boston area to enable our son, Tony, then only 12 and a promising violin player, to enroll at the world famous Julliard School of Music to studied under Mr. Ivan Galamian, then well regarded as perhaps the best violin teacher at Julliard. For the next three years, Eddy would dutifully take Tony to New York City for his violin lessons on Saturdays rain or shine. When Mr. Galamian passed away, Tony switched to Longy School of Music in Cambridge to continue his violin study under Mr. Roman Totenberg. This move seemed to make us an out-of-the-norm family to Bostonians.
我和Eddy於1978年放下在台灣已有的一切， 帶著十二歲主修小提琴的兒子移民來美定居在美國的文化城Boston ，整整三年每週六風雪無阻地往返紐約與Boston， 在最髙音樂學府Julliard School of Music接受最好的師資調教，直至這位美國最有權威的小提琴教授Mr. Ivan Galamian逝世才回到Boston，繼續在Longy School of Music接受 Mr. Roman Totenberg的教導，也因此使我們成為Boston的異類。
I graduated with a B.A. degree in music majoring in Piano from National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei. In the mean time, I also kept up my study of dance at Chinese Dance Studio in Taipei for seventeen (17) years. Naturally, teaching piano and dance became my career after college. However, it never ever occurred to me that I would continue my teaching career in performing arts in America just like what I was doing while still in Taiwan. As if by fate, I started teaching private piano lessons within three months of my arrival here and I simply cannot believe that I have actually done it for thirty-five (35) years! I am pleased to say that among many students whom I have taught, several promising ones actually went on to study music in college and that some even began their own piano teaching careers afterwards. What a blessing from the Lord indeed! Meanwhile, I was also invited to teach traditional Chinese dances to children at Lexington Chinese Language School and Greater Boston Chinese Cultural Association, enabling me to resume exactly what I enjoy doing while still in Taiwan.
我畢業於台灣國立師範大學，主修鋼琴，同時在中華舞蹈藝術硏究社習舞17年，畢業後一直從事鋼琴與舞蹈的教學工作。但絶沒想到在美國仍能繼續從事自己興趣的本行工作。來美才三個月就閞始鋼琴的私人教授，一轉眼就教了三十五年，其中也造就了數位有才華的鋼琴學生，繼續在大學深造，甚至在畢業後也從事授琴的工作，這實在全是神的恩典。在舞蹈教學上也很快就接受Lexington Chinese School 與大波士頓中華文化協會的邀請，在舞蹈班裡開始教授中華民族舞蹈。
While I was still trying to adjust to the new environment, culture and ways of life, I also became keenly aware that many area American-born Chinese children lacked even the basic understanding of Chinese culture. As a result of this agonizing discovery, I resolved to do my very best to teach, by means of music and dance, the next generation of Chinese children in the greater Boston area to learn and understand the Chinese culture and heritage. To this end, Eddy and I founded the American Chinese Art Society and registered it as a non-profit cultural organization with Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1984. Meanwhile, we also organized a board of directors consisting of like-minded friends who share with us similar views on promoting Chinese culture, to govern the operation of ACAS. The current ACAS Board of Directors is composed of eleven (11) members: President, Executive Director, Secretary, Treasurer, Public Relations (2), Development (2), and Directors at large (3). In addition, a Senior Advisor to the Board also provides services as needed. The Board sets policies and makes final decisions which the Executive Director is responsible for their timely execution. The Executive Director is also in charge of the actual operations of ACAS. Since its founding, members of the Board have worked very hard behind the scene to guide and support ACAS enabling it to grow continuously and achieve its present reputation. I am deeply grateful to all Board members for their strong support and contributions over the years.
With funds raised via a successful concert, we were able to begin sponsoring a total of five (5) Youth Piano and Violin Competitions. The goal was to introduce talented youth Chinese musicians to the public and to invite well-known Chinese musicians to give master classes to these promising youth. Soon the Children Angel Chorus became the earliest entity of the ACAS family with the goal to enable the young children to learn Chinese through the lyrics of the songs and to instill a deep sense of teamwork and cooperation. We reasoned that, through the joy of singing, the children hopefully would not feel it was such a big burden to learn Chinese. In the meantime, we founded the Adults Chamber Chorus to afford music loving adults an opportunity to relax from their stressful daily routine while enjoying the lovely melodies with their friends. As most of you know, the Traditional Chinese Dance Troupe was actually established in 1985, the last performing art group coming under the auspice of ACAS.
Without our own facility early on, I resorted to bring the Children Angel Chorus and the Adults Chamber Chorus to our home for their weekly rehearsals on Saturdays and Friday evenings, respectively. As for the Traditional Chinese Dance Troupe, their rehearsal schedules were totally beyond our control and very much at the mercy of the rented facility then, a painful inconvenience for us. This hardship went on for a while and ended only when the Lexington Chinese Bible Church, where Eddy and I had always worshiped, kindly agreed to let us to use its facility when it was not used for events by the church groups on Saturdays. This arrangement finally afforded both the Children Angel Chorus and Traditional Chinese Dance Troupe a more dependable, albeit not perfect, venue for their weekly practices/rehearsals. Going through this “homeless” hardship for years made us begin longing in earnest for our own facility to solve the problem once and for all. However, as we all know, it is always easier said than done in any real estate acquisition. Then something happened that lifted ACAS from its homeless predicament.
藝協傳統中國舞蹈團是在次年1985年成立的，當時藝協沒有自己的場地，兒童天使合唱團每週六在我家練習，成人混聲室內合唱團是週五晚上在我家排練，舞蹈團則要看租借的場所何時有空就何時排練了。一直到我和Eddy主日參加聚會的 Lexington 華人聖經教會答應在周六不用時借用給我們使用，藝協的天使合唱團與傳統中國舞蹈團才比較安定下來，我和Eddy一直希望能擁有一個屬於自己的場地，想歸想，談何容易。
In good grace, fortunately, it seemed the Lord did answer our prayers just in time. It was 1995 when we learned that the dilapidated church building located in Woburn that was owned by Boston Chinese Bible Church, was on the market at a discount. Despite its horrible conditions, Eddy and I still considered this a godsend and exhausted all we had including putting our own house down as a collateral to secure a mortgage to purchase this run-down property. After an expensive but thorough renovation, we decided to dedicate this “born-again” building as “The ACAS Activity Center” at a grand opening ceremony attended by more than 300 guests on May 4, 1996. To our great relief, ACAS finally has its own “home” to provide a permanent facility for the Children Angel Chorus and the Dance Troupe to conduct their weekly rehearsals and practices. To us, this was absolutely a wild dream came true!
During the first years of operating the Activity Center, ACAS was the sole user of the building and only for part of the week. Since the vast building remained vacant most of the time, it really created a big financial hardship for us. However, despite this burden, Eddy and I never wavered on the tuition-free policy that ACAS had pledged early on since we truly considered ACAS students as our own children. As the sole instructor for each group, I resolved to do my very best to teach the next generation of Chinese children without expecting any return of favor or compensation from them. My pledge was, and still is, that once admitted through an open audition, I would teach all the students free of tuition as long as they remain in good standing and are willing to take part, on behalf of ACAS, in promoting Chinese culture via dance and music performances. As the sole teacher trying to fit all three groups in a weekend, I had to schedule the weekly rehearsals/practices of the Dance Troupe and the Children Angel Chorus for Saturday mornings and afternoons, respectively, leaving only Sunday afternoons available to students of the ACAS Dance Studio, which was formed in 1996, for their weekly sessions. While the Adults Chamber Chorus held their weekly rehearsals at the home of a member, I was their piano accompanist and also responsible for arranging all the chores. For fourteen (15) years in a row, I was in charge of teaching two ACAS groups on Saturdays without any interruption. I should also note that for a period of fourteen (14) years, I was solely responsible for teaching the Children Angel Chorus for eleven years. I was very proud that the Children Angel Chorus actively participated in many annual ACAS festivals in June by presenting well-liked Chinese melodies and folk songs. In addition, they also performed several lovely children’s operettas such as “The Story of Si Ma Guang”, “The Joyful Spring” and “The Deer and Their Angel” accompanied by ACAS Youth Chamber Orchestra, to the delight of the audiences. Speaking of the Dance Troupe, I find it hard to believe I was so energetic in those early years that I was able to create and choreograph many works in both Chinese dance pieces and large-scale dance dramas for the Dance Troupe to showcase at the annual ACAS festivals year after year. In this regard, the familiar and popular dance pieces such as “The Feather Fans”, “The Little Cowboy”, “Uncover Your Veil”, “Tunhwang Flying Apsaras”, “Festive Island of Taiwan”, “The Temple Festival”, etc.. are all very typical of my choreographic style and meet the high ACAS standard. In addition, I also created and choreographed many well-received dance dramas including such multi-acts/scenes productions as “Mulan”, “The Song of Eternal Lament”, “The Dream of the Red Chamber”, “The Bridge of Magpies”, “A Suite of Taiwan Aborigines”, “The Goddess Strews Flowers”, etc. As noted, some are based on best-known and popular Chinese novels. I am really proud and pleased that they were all premiered at the Tsai Performance Center at one of our June festivals.
雖然頭幾年藝協活動中心除藝協使用之外，其他時間都在養蚊子，經濟壓力逼迫得真透不過氣，但Eddy和我總是咬緊牙𨶹，堅守不收取學費的原則，我倆把這些孩子當作自己的兒女來教導。由於各團教導皆由我一人負責，我決定獻出自己所學，無條件義務教導我們下一代。只要孩子們通過甄試入團，努力學習，代表藝協對外傳掦我中華文化，一律不收取學費。每周六上午舞蹈團排練，接下去下午天使合唱團排練。於1996年成立的ACAS Dance Studio 則安排在周日下午上課，全部教學皆由我一人負責。成人室內混聲合唱團則每周一次在團員家練習，我擔任伴奏及安排一切事項。每周六 我一人負責教導兩個團，風雪無阻，十五年如一日。天使合唱團在整整十四年中，我教授了十一年，每年參加六月底的盛大公演，選唱我國藝術歌曲及各地民謠，編導演出了「司馬光的故事」、「快樂春天」及「小鹿與天使」等兒童歌舞劇，由華裔青少年組成的室內交響樂團伴奏。 當時真是精力充沛，舞蹈團排練出整場年年不同的大公演節目，除了「羽扇」、「小放牛」、「掀起妳的蓋頭來」、「敦煌飛天」、「歡樂寶島」、「廟會」等較有代表性的舞蹈小品創作之外，還編導了「花木蘭」、「長恨歌」、「紅樓夢」、「鵲橋」、「台灣山地組曲」、「天女散花」等多支創作舞劇。 看到孩子們努力有了收獲，歌聲進步，舞蹈技巧提升，所得讚美也愈來愈多， 心中感到安慰，一切勞累都算不得什麼了。 在孩子歡笑聲中一起「教學相長 」，是一件多麼快樂且有意義的事啊！
I was very contented to know that through great efforts and hard work, our students were getting better and better in their skills in singing and dancing as evidenced by increasingly wide recognition of, and praises for, ACAS as an outstanding, high-standard performing arts group in the greater Boston area. To a teacher, what is a better reward than the public recognition of the excellent achievements of your students ? When that happens, I feel it is well worth of any sacrifice and hardship on my part. Not unexpectedly, as ACAS was gaining ever better recognition, then came more and more invitations to perform at museums, libraries, nursing homes, schools, colleges, special occasions and celebration, etc. Importantly, I always consider these invitations as a great opportunity for ACAS to introduce and promote Chinese culture via performing traditional Chinese dances and music to the public. On a personal level, I received “The Pride of Newton Award” presented by the City of Newton in 1995, and the “Hai Hwa High Honor Award” presented by Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission, ROC, in 2009, in addition to being honored as one of the “Ten Outstanding Women in Newton”. Though I accepted them, I always considered these awards as a deserving recognition of ACAS in its continuing efforts to promote Chinese culture in the greater Boston communities and beyond over the years.
由於孩子們表現出色，外界邀請演出的機會愈來愈多，各地博物館、圖書館、中、小學、大學、各種節慶都紛紛邀請我們去演出介紹中華文化。榮獲各地頒發𡘾狀，我榮獲 Newton 市政府頒發「Newton之光」獎，又榮獲中華民國僑務委員會頒發 「海華榮譽獎章」，同時還被 Newton 選為十大傑出女性， 襃掦我在宣掦文化上的努力。
With the ACAS reputation well established, I was inspired by the old Chinese saying, “Traveling ten thousand miles is like reading ten thousand books” and began to seriously consider taking the ACAS group to perform far beyond the greater Boston area during the summer break. The first opportunity came when the ACAS Traditional Dance Troupe accepted an invitation from the City of Shanghai Commission to perform jointly with the local youth performing arts group coupled with some sightings in 1997.We were excited to accept an invitation to perform at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and everyone really had a great time there in 1999. In 2000, the Dance Troupe traveled to Hawaii to perform at the grand opening ceremony of the Chinese Cultural Center in Honolulu followed by a fun tour of this paradise city, and also to Philadelphia to perform at a charity event to raise funds for the “Horn” and then a tour of this important city in American history where Declaration of Independence became reality. Another highlight came in 2002 when the Dance Troupe accepted an invitation to perform at Disneyland, California, followed by a performing tour to Taiwan for nine days including a fun visit to several well known sightseeing attractions. The Dance Troupe members then got a rare vacation treat when they were invited to perform on board the Carnival’s Victory Cruise Ship sailing from New York City to Canada round-trip in early July of 2006. Needless to say, everybody greatly enjoyed this very unique performing experience. In 2007, I took the Dance Troupe to Beijing, China, for an intense training program for four days at a dance workshop offered by the Central Nationality University followed by tours of many world-famous, fascinating sightseeing attractions in Beijing. We then traveled to Dalian, Shenyang and other cities for joint performances with local dance groups and more tours. In 2010, the Dance Troupe was invited for its second performing tour to Taiwan for two weeks including a performance at the world-renowned National Palace Museum in suburban Taipei and another one at National Yunlin University of Science and Technology combined with an exciting round-the-island tour of Taiwan. Perhaps the most memorable performing tour came when the Dance Troupe accepted an invitation to participate and perform in the 27th New Year’s Parade and Festival in London in January, 2013, coupled with several tours of famous sightseeing attractions for a week. It should be noted that Eddy and I always personally led every out-of-state and overseas performing tour to alleviate troupe members and their parents of any concern for safety.
日行萬里路，如讀萬卷書，我開始想該帶孩子們赴外地看看，我決定利用暑假期間安排機會。笫一次帶舞團去外地演出是在1997年接獲上海歸國華僑委員會的邀請，到上海和當地少年宮交流演出及參觀。1999年，帶領舞團赴Florida 州的迪斯耐樂園演出及𨘋玩，孩子們玩得不亦樂乎。2000年舞團應邀赴夏威夷為當地文化中心開幕演出並順道遊覧、參觀。同年又赴Philadelphia 為基督教「號角」募款義演。2002年舞團在加州Disneyland 演出後，再轉往台灣演出及觀光。2006年舞團在Carnival-Victory 大𨘋輪上演出及度假。2007年帶舞團赴北京、撫順、大連、遼寧等地演出、交流及參觀，同時安排團員們在北京民族舞蹈學院接受四天的密集訓練。2010年再次遠征台灣，在名聞世界的中華民國故宮博物館及雲林科技大學演出。2013年獲英國邀請遠赴倫敦參加第27屆新年大遊行與Festival 演出。每一次赴外地，Eddy和我皆親自帶隊，好讓家長與孩子們安心。
After taking care of the ACAS groups as the sole teacher with no assistance for fifteen (15) years, I became mainly physically exhausted with my advanced age. The ACAS Board, after careful deliberations, decided to disband the Children Angel Chorus at the end of the Thirteenth Annual Chinese Music and Dance Festival in June, 1999, in order to focus on performing traditional Chinese dances as a viable means of promoting Chinese culture. This strategic shift has enabled the Dance Troupe to continue to flourish and enjoy its excellent reputation as we know it today. Notably, it was not until September, 2000, did ACAS hire its first teaching assistant, Grace Chan who, as you all know, is the current Teacher and Artistic Director of the Dance Troupe, to help lessen my teaching load. Several other instructors and teaching assistants including Angela Yin, Joy Lee, Ke Ke, Joanna Zhou, Bin-Shin So, Lucia Liu, Hang-Dong Xu, etc., also joined the faculty for various periods of time in the past indicative of high turnover rate among dance teachers. Recruiting more teachers certainly helped reduce the teaching load but it also inevitably increased the financial burden of ACAS. To help alleviate this serious problem, ACAS was forced to impose a new “facility usage fees” policy on troupe members (that is, their parents) twelve (12) years ago. Currently, Grace Chan, Jia Ma, Jamie Yang and I are the regular faculty of the Dance Troupe. In this regard, I firmly believe that our strong faculty will ensure that the Dance Troupe can continues to flourish and maintain its well recognized reputation as a highly proficient, well-trained outstanding performing arts group in the greater Boston region.
Inaugurated in 1999 and sponsored by ACAS, the Annual Chinese Dance Summer Workshop, which, by design, is very different from the more traditional summer camps everywhere, was intended to provide a fun environment for children to enjoy the summer by learning mainly Chinese dances as well as other forms of dance including ballet, jazz, hip-hop, etc. each taught by specialty teachers for a week. The workshop has been gaining popularity among children who are interested in learning and advancing their dance skills and other aspects of stage experience. In addition, ACAS began to sponsor the New England Chinese Dance Competition held every other year for amateur dancers only. Note that this is the only such competition focusing exclusively on Chinese dances in the New England area. We are very pleased the six competitions held so far have enabled many young talented dancers to showcase their dancing skills. The annual Christmas party and the celebration banquet at the end of the annual June festival afford a great opportunity for the dance troupe members, parents, teachers, board members and other gusts to get together to relax and have fun in addition to enjoying great food and good company.
I am an elderly by any measure since, at age 75, I am “old” enough to be “grandma” to the children and “mother” to the parents. (Similarly, Eddy should be called “grand uncle” instead of uncle?) Nevertheless, I believe my mind and mental acumen remain young and sharp just like those of the children. Perhaps the most gratifying and cherished memories are the elaborate dinner parties carefully organized by the extended ACAS families to celebrate my 60th birthday, 70th birthday, and our 50th wedding anniversary. We are forever grateful to you all for your thoughtfulness, good will and affection. As ACAS reaches its 30th anniversary, we are planning a series of special events to mark this important milestone including a big celebration dinner party to be held at Sheraton Framingham Hotel on Sunday, June 29, 2014, the day after the festival performances.I sincerely hope all former members of ACAS groups, especially those from early years, would make an effort to “come home” for a nostalgic visit and join current Dance Troupe members, their families, and other guests for a big party celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of ACAS. I hereby cordially extend my personal invitation to you all.
轉眼三十年過去，我已是個75歲的老人，但我的心卻和這些孩子一樣，只是孩子們變成我倆的孫輩，家長們成為我們倆的兒女了。 我的六十歲生日、七十歲生日、Eddy 和我的結婚五十週年，都是這個大家庭為給予我們溫馨的慶祝。2014年是藝協成立三十週年，我們希望能擴大慶祝。我多盼望早期的舞團團員、合唱團團員都能回到這個大家庭相聚，一起回味以前的快樂時光，讓我們一同來歡聚，一塊兒來𪊓賀紐英崙中華藝術協會的三十歲生日。