WMU News

Chinese trumpet professor is visiting scholar

March 20, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- It would seem hard to stand out in a nation of one billion people. But it's not a problem for Chen Rui. A trumpet professor from China and visiting scholar at Western Michigan University, Chen has become something of a celebrity in his native land.

"I am very famous in China," Chen says without hesitation, a smile crossing his face.

Of course, it helps being one of only four trumpet professors who hold master's degrees in the nation. That makes Chen one in about 250 million.

Chen, a professor at Tianjin Conservatory of Music, is on a six-month visit to WMU. Energetic and always ready to laugh, Chen arrived in early January and will stay until July.

While at WMU, Chen plans to observe closely the techniques and materials used by University professors to teach trumpet performance. In addition to trumpet classes, Chen is attending classes in conducting, music history and romantic music history.

Chen says that there are nine music conservatories in his country. Only two offer master's degrees in trumpet performance, the conservatory where he teaches and one in Beijing. The Tianjin Conservatory of Music, he says, is one of the best in China.

"I like teaching and performing very much," Chen says enthusiastically. "I just love it."

Chen's parents prompted him to take up the instrument. His uncle was an accomplished trumpet player and the former principal trumpet for the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

"My parents thought I should do something," Chen says. "They thought I should learn some music."

Chen studied trumpet throughout five years of preparatory school and in Beijing. He then studied for four years at the Tianjin Conservatory, graduating in 1983. He stayed on at the school as an assistant, then was promoted to assistant professor in 1988. The same year, he began work on a master's degree in trumpet performance at the conservatory, obtaining his degree in 1991. In 1994, he was promoted to associate professor, becoming the youngest associate professor of trumpet in China. Chen went on to become a full professor and vice dean at the music school.

Though he has steadily moved up the ranks of his profession, the classically trained musician laments that he doesn't have as much time to practice as he used to. But he is proud of what he has accomplished.

"I have a good reputation in China," Chen says. "Students travel all night to study with me."

Chen's accomplishments have allowed him to travel to other parts of the world to meet, study and perform with other talented trumpet players in Europe and Greece. Through his membership with the International Trumpet Guild, he became aware of the WMU School of Music. Chen wrote to Dr. Richard O'Hearn, director of the school, who encouraged Chen to come to Kalamazoo to visit the school and work with WMU professors.

Since his arrival, Chen has worked closely with Dr. Stephen Jones, a WMU trumpet professor who is Chen's faculty host. Both musicians have been impressed with each other's abilities.

"He's very good," Jones says. "He has a very beautiful tone, good stamina, good range and very nimble articulation. There are some subtle style differences from American players. He's a very good trumpet player. It's obvious why he's famous in China."

Chen also has been impressed by what he has seen at WMU.

"It is very nice here," he says. "It's very different from our conservatory. Everything is very rich here. The resources that are available here are very high."

While in the United States, Chen also plans to check out doctoral programs offered in the United States. There are no doctoral programs in trumpet available in China. He also would like to see New York and Washington, D.C.

Chen isn't the only one in his family getting something out of his trip here. His wife, Zhou Shen Shi, is an associate professor of voice and came along on the trip.

"My wife said, 'Your decision is very good,' " Chen says.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 269 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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