For the very first time, Penn partnered with the Philadelphia Orchestra during its Tour of Asia & China Residency. The one-year-old Penn Wharton China Center (PWCC) was the presenting sponsor for the Beijing leg of the Orchestra’s three-week, seven-city tour this past May, led by Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
“It’s very natural for the Philadelphia Orchestra and Penn to be working together,” says Ryan Fleur, the executive vice president for Orchestra advancement. “It’s a marvelous first step for us, and also an opportunity to bring the best of Philadelphia to China.”
In addition to the Orchestra’s two concerts at Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts, its members led master classes at the PWCC for local violin learners ranging in age from 8 to 27 years old, says Betty He, the Center’s acting managing director. A Philadelphia Orchestra quartet also performed at a private, celebratory event at the PWCC for Penn alumni and other affiliates.
“Arts and culture help bring communities together,” says Amy Gadsden, Penn Global executive director and executive director of Penn China Initiatives. “In the same spirit, our students and faculty are important people-to-people ambassadors who build bridges whose impact is seen over decades.”
Gadsden says the Orchestra and Penn had been in talks about the May partnership for more than a year.
“The Philadelphia Orchestra has a longstanding commitment to China and East Asia that goes back to 1973,” says Gadsden. “It occupies a unique historical role in China’s re-opening to the West after the Cultural Revolution.”
Penn’s history in China is also significant, Gadsden says, as the University has records of Penn graduates going to China as early as the 1820s, and its first Chinese student matriculating at the Philadelphia campus in 1896. In March 2015, the University launched the PWCC as a premier facility providing on-the-ground support for the growing programs and collaborations between Penn’s 12 schools and many academic, government, and business partners throughout China.
“Being two institutions in Philadelphia with a global reach and a profound interest in China, we knew it would be a good opportunity to come together and mutually support each other’s work,” says Gadsden.
“We hope that this partnership is the start of something important and long term,” Fleur adds.