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Gainning culture while taching abroad

CSU-Pueblo Today Photo/ Jon Doose
Colorado State University-Pueblo’s Director of Bands, Alan Mills conducts the band during class.

By Chianna Schoenthaler

With teaching comes deep meaning and experience. For professor Alan Mills, this meant traveling and taking a sabbatical to teach others across the world.

Professor Mills, associate professor and director of bands music, took the 2016-2017 academic year to teach students in Chengdu, China. “I conducted the Symphony Orchestra and taught classes in Classical Western Music and Jazz History,” Mills said. “I worked for the Culture and Art Education Center of the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in Chengdu.”

The University of Electronic Science and Technology is nestled in Chengdu, China and was established in September 1956. The university is a key national university and is China’s highest level of electronic information. The motto of the university is “truth-seeking truth, the atmosphere is” within their personal training of their students. The university is made up of three different campuses and covers more than 4,000 acres.

“Living in China is much different from visiting China. It took a long time to get used to simple daily living, such as shopping for groceries and and using the public transit systems,” Mills said. “But soon enough we adapted to our surroundings and became relatively self-sufficient. I wouldn’t say that the experience necessarily changed my teaching methods at CSU-Pueblo, but I grew more comfortable doing music ensemble rehearsals with all ages even though my language skills are still quite minimal.”

This was not the first time that Mills has taught abroad, and has in fact taught in Beijing, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. “I completed a brief residency at the Sichuan College Conservatory of Music, located in Chengdu, China in the winter of 2015,” he said. “In part, this opened a new door of opportunity for me which resulted in an invitation to serve a yearlong residency at another university in Chengdu for the 2016-17 academy year.”

CSU-Pueblo Today Photo/ Jon Doose
Colorado State University-Pueblo’s Director of Bands, Alan Mills conducts the band during class.

Mills did not take the trip alone. His wife and three daughters were able to not only watch as he conducts the symphony, but were able to have lasting experiences of their own. “It is a profound experience to drop yourself in a culture where you cannot read and possess minimal language skills,” Mills said. “Our three young daughters now have a better appreciation for what it means to be a minority and we believe that they will now have a better appreciation and respect for others as they grow up.”

Thanks to this experience professor Mills has assemble a concert for Nov. 16, in Hoag Hall as well as a performance at the Colorado Music Educators Association annual conference at the Broadmoor hotel in Colorado Springs on Jan. 25. The concert will feature all Chinese themed music played by Colorado State University-Pueblo’s Wind Ensemble. “A very wide demographic has an opportunity to experience and learn more about the Chinese culture through music,” Mills said.