Shanren in Bemidji, MN

By Shigeyo Henriquez

Last week, Shanren explored Bemidji and northern Minnesota while sharing their incredible music and culture through a variety of residency activities. Road manager Shigeyo Henriquez shares photos and stories from their week in Minnesota.

Our first day in Bemidji was a day off, and it felt good to rest. In the late afternoon our hosts from Headwaters School of Music & the Arts, Janet Brademan along with Katie and Mike Carter, came to the hotel for a short visit. Mike Carter speaks Mandarin, which made Shanren feel welcome. It was a good start to the week.

On Tuesday, the first workday was at Bemidji State University where we met a Chinese professor, Xian Fen, and a student named Fin Fin who helped translate. The music teacher, Dr. Janice Haworth, was so intrigued by the instruments and wanted to own one.

Shanren also met with Miss Bemidji 2015, Tia Ellies. Tia is a student at Bemidji State University and spent time in China teaching English as a foreign language.

Here is Shanren hosting a workshop at Red Lake High School in Red Lake, MN.

During this workshop, the ensemble’s manager and interpreter, Sam Debell, asked audience members to close their eyes and listen to Fu Te’s flute. “If you listen closely,” he said, “you may experience seeing an Eagle flying high in the air.” In the photo below the tall student in the striped shirt, whose name was JT, was one of the students who helped us throughout our stay at Red Lake High School. After this workshop, he said he imagined his father flying as an eagle and watching over him. It was a pretty powerful experience.

Red Lake High School was well prepared for our visit. All the students signed a welcome banner and presented it to us. The band loved their time with the students at Red Lake High!

On an icy cold Wednesday morning, we drove over an hour to Ponemah Elementary School. The school is located in a very remote area of the Red Lake Nation. It was a long way to get there, but it was all worth it to watch the faces of children who have never seen a Chinese band at their school. Then another drive to Red Lake High School, where we ate school lunch for the first time. Shanren was really getting exposed to the local food and culture. A few high school students helped us load in. During this workshop, one of the students asked if Ou, the drummer, could do some solo drumming. Ou, who is always quiet, humble, and modest, picked up his sticks and really played! It was his time, his place, his performance. There was big applause and whistles from the students. Ou really shined in this workshop, and the line of students wanting to get his signature didn’t stop.

Ou has a very creative arrangement of tribal drums from China along with modern, Western-style drums.

The student body of Northome School (Pre-K through Grade 12) is greater than the town of Northome’s population of 200.

For the first time, Shanren tried school lunch, waiting in line with the students of Northome School.

The students of Northome School were so thrilled to sit among Shanren!

At TrekNorth High School, students raised their hands to volunteer for a dance. One, two, three, four, five, and kick, repeat the steps and once again – it takes some practice, but they all learn the steps and dance. One teacher grabbed my sleeve and said, “Look at that boy. He is autistic, and he is following the steps and dancing just like the other students.” She was ecstatic with joy!

On Friday, we were invited for a fish fry at the home of our residency hosts, Katie and Mike.

Then our other host, Janet, got us tickets to see a college hockey game with Bemidji State University vs. Bowling Green at the Sanford Center in Bemidji. Shanren stayed through overtime until the very end. During the game Fu Te couldn’t stop screaming, “Wow! Ohh! Yeah!” The group even ate pizza and hot dogs at the arena for a true taste of American culture!

Shanren posed with Bucky the Beaver, the mascot of the Bemidji State University hockey team.

Later, Yabo and Ou sang at their concert. The name of the song they are performing is “Shanren,” written by Yabo, and it’s the most electrified piece of the band’s repertoire. They use electric guitar and bass combined with Western-style drums and Chinese tribal drums.

At the end, Janet and Shanren all bowed to the audience for a final, “Thank you!” It was Janet’s last day of work, and she is now officially retired.


Hi guys!

So great to see your blog! I hope you all have had safe travels on your long journeys. Hopefully, you are on your way home in order to celebrate Chinese New Year! Enjoy!

We have been forever changed as a result of your trip through northern Minnesota. Thank you so much for making the long journey. As my husband Robert has already told you, you always have a place to stay, warm food to eat, and people who adore you here in northern Minnesota!

Take care of yourselves!

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