I first began studying Mandarin in 2007 at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC. Right away I found Chinese characters to be beautiful and fascinating, and as a musician became especially intrigued by the nuances of the tonal language. My interest in Chinese intensified upon my first visit to China in 2008, when I lived in the rural town of Shangrila, Yunnan Province (香格里拉，云南省). I then participated in the CET Academic Studies Program at Capital Normal University in Beijing, which included intensive Chinese language courses.
After graduating from Guilford College in 2010 with a B.A. in East Asian Studies and Music, I continued my academic career at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where I received a Master’s degree in Music (Ethnomusicology) specializing in music of China. During my time at UHM, I was a multi-year recipient of the Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) Scholarship, allowing me the opportunity to study Intermediate and Advanced Chinese language courses at Xiamen University in Fujian Province. I became a Fulbright Program grant recipient for the China region from 2012-2013, during which time I conducted research on the Fire Torch Festival (火把节) and mouth harp (口弦) music of the Nuosu Yi ethnic minority group in Yunnan and Sichuan Provinces. My M.A. thesis, “Musical Change in Huobajie: Recontextualizing Nuosu Yi Identity” can be viewed here.
My Fulbright grant and MA thesis research involved extended periods of time in a rural mountain village called Old Medicine Mountain near the Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan Province. While staying with a host family, I recorded and transcribed hours of folk music, stories, and interviews all conducted in Chinese and/or the Nuosu Yi language. I moved to the city of Xichang, Sichuan Province (西昌，四川省), the capital of the Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture (凉山彝族自治区) in Spring 2013. While there, I teamed up with Professor Yi Wu of the Southwest University for Nationalities (西南民族大学) to create a documentary entitled “Masters of the Yi Mouth Harp”. It is available for free here, or by clicking the video link above.