The Journey through Jazz: Hong Kong Institute of Music (HKIED) Jazz Ensemble at the 5th JEN Conference

By Dr. Sheung-Ping Lai, Hong Kong Institute of Education

The HKIED Jazz Ensemble and I were invited to perform and to give a presentation at the 5thJEN Conference in Dallas in January 2014. It was a great honor for us, as we were the first group to represent Hong Kong and East Asia at JEN. Besides the concert performance on January 9 and my presentation on January 10, our group was also invited to participate in a clinic at the JENerations Jazz Festival on January 11.

Our Jazz Ensemble created a new form of fusion incorporating Chinese and Western musical instruments, Chinese folk elements, with contemporary jazz harmony, funk rhythm and free jazz improvisation. The concert was a cross-cultural musical journey of diverse musical expressions under the theme of Peace, Harmony and Friendship. Group members were Barry Lee (piano), Hin-Chuen Siu (tenor saxophone), Abson Fung (Chinese wind instruments), Tak-Chung Wong (bass), Samuel Chan (drums) and Nicholas So (Chinese percussion). The concert was well attended and well received. Many audiences stayed after the concert and talked with us. They were fascinated by the sonorities of the Chinese wind and percussion instruments, and the new fusion style we introduced. Some of the audiences also came to my presentation the next day.

My presentation Jazz in Hong Kong: A Cross-cultural Perspective traces the historical and stylistic development of jazz in Hong Kong from a cross cultural perspective, with live demonstration of the application of Chinese wind instruments to jazz improvisation. The presentation generated much enthusiasm from the audiences. Different jazz educators have expressed interest in future collaborations with us.

During the clinic, our ensemble played three jazz standards. The two clinicians Chuck Owens and Jose Diaz gave us some very constructive comments for improvement on combo performance. We truly appreciated this opportunity to learn from the masters.

Besides our own participation in three JEN events, we were also very excited about attending other concert performances and educational clinics by great jazz masters and educators during the Conference. Overall, our trip to JEN was overwhelming. Not only did we perform and present our music at the Conference, but we also learned a great deal from the cultural experience.

The HKIED leads the way of jazz education in Hong Kong. During the past few years, we have collaborated with Butler University on Choral Jazz Festivals which involved many local schools. We are developing our own Jazz Ensemble and Vocal Jazz Group. Beginning this academic year, we are launching the first Jazz minor in Hong Kong.

We hope the next generation of Hong Kong music educators, our graduates, will be able to teach jazz in local schools and to promote jazz to the local community. Our participation at JEN 2014 brings us closer to the international jazz community. Perhaps in the near future, there would be cultural exchange opportunities between our institute and overseas institutions on jazz education.

Learn more about the Hong Kong Institute of Education here.