Finally Back Home

Well it was a great trip and fun to be in China but as alway it is great to be home. I was very tired when I arrived last night and took the day off to recoup. Now with a little energy I will make my last post and add some videos that I took in the last days. Sorry for the lateness in getting them up but better late then never.

China is a wonderful country to visit. It is a different culture and was glad we had interpreters. I have a much better appreciation for students who come from China to the US to study and knowing how difficult it must be to enter a new culture, have to learn a new language and still expected to do as well as any other student.

I hope you all enjoyed this blog and photos. I have uploaded what I think are the last of the photos so all should be available at I hope the New Sousa Band is able to travel again.

Thanks everyone,


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Last days in China

We are all zonked. What a day and what a tour. We did way more than we should have in the time we were here but all in all was a good tour.

We started today at 9:00 and headed to the Great Wall of China. On our way our guide was giving us some insight into living in Beijing. He was talking about cars. The most popular car is the Volkswagon and public officials drive an Audi. The Audi’s often break the driving rules as they are they are in power. He also talked about the problem of so many cars in Beijing they have a rule that you can only drive on a day when your license number is on the correct day. For instance, on Monday only those with 1 and 6, Tuesday only those with number 2 and 7, ect…. This helps to reduce the snarl of traffic. They also only issue 20,000 licenses a year so you may not be able to get a license if they have all ready issued their limit.

It is very interesting to me that people here seem to have lots of patience. A vehical can be blocking traffic and no one toots or seems to be angry that the road is block. Probably because there is always a bit of a snarl for traffic people are just use to it.

The Great Wall was amazing. I have seen pictures and video but you really have to see it in person to appreciate it. We spent about 90 minutes there and was it ever a tough climb. I have some photos and video that I will have to upload later.

We went for lunch after that and then to a couple of souvinier shops where people bought gifts. The on to the concert hall.

The hall was wonderful and the audience was the best. 400 members of the Chinese Army Band were there and we modified our program to include few Chinese numbers and more standard wind band music. This was on their request. Then during the concert Keith spoke about the Washington Post march and the Pride of the Wolverines March. When we ended the concert they kept applauding for more and after we had played all our enchors they gave us a standing ovation. Was a great compliment coming from musicians. I know it seems to be a cliche but music really is something that can and does bring people together. More of the worlds differences could be solved if shared more music with each other.

We had a nice dinner after the concert and back to the hotel. We arrived after midnight and some will be on the road to the airport at 6:00 am. I am one of those lucky people. I may send one more post off in the morning but my brain is too tired to think.

Hopefully on the plane ride home I will be able to edit some photos and video and get them up for you to see when I get back. Remember photos can be seen at

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Good News from Beijing

One of the pieces we have been playing in each concert is a piece called Good News from Beijing to the country side villages. Well, good news from Beijing tonight is we had a good concert and good audience. Very responsive and had lots of energy throughout. And we needed energy. Our day did start at 5:00 and a bus trip to the airport. The hotel provided a boxed lunch with a sandwich, hard boiled egg, a meat and can’t remember what else.

We arrived at the airport and one of our horn players collapsed. He fell forward and cut his lip. He had to be transported to the hospital and I guess he is fine and will join us tomorrow. Two other members went with him and stayed in Kunming and they will fly in tomorrow morning as well. Our 5 member horn section was reduced to three members as one of the people staying with him was a horn player. We were able to find a competent student in Beijing who was happy to come and play with the ensemble. One of the cornet players also has been fighting a cold and today it got the best of him. He was unable to play the concert and was one of the players in the cornet trio playing Three Kings. Mark Ponzo was able to play his part and did a fine job on so little notice.

After we arrived in Beijing we went to Tianamen Square and after looking around and getting our picture taken it was off to lunch. We have a variety of food and also had Peking Duck which was very good. Then some of us went through the Forbidden city and some headed to the hall which was part of the forbidden city. It was a cold afternoon and walking around outside after a night of little sleep had us all a bit tired. Having had enough of being outside we headed to the hall and arrived at 4:30 or so. It gave us a chance to warm up and then have a short rehearsal.

The concert tonight was at 7:30 so was good to be done a bit earlier than other nights. For all the concerts there have been some announcements that prevented us from beginning to play until 10 minutes and the concert should have started. Tonight there were no announcements so wonder why. Because most places close by 9:00 we needed to find a place to eat and so we went to one of the few 24 hour places–McDonalds.

We arrived at the hotel, cold and tired. We were going to head to the great wall at 7:00 am but we changed that. Some of us will leave for the great wall at 9:00 and some will stay at the hotel. You just can’t do it all and when your body tells you to rest you need to rest.

Due to the amount of time available I may not be able to get many more videos or photos posted before I get back home but will do my best. Will capture and might end up posting when I get back.

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On our way to Beijing

And so we end our time in Kunming. I have enjoyed being here these past four days and I believe everyone else has also. Today some of us went to the Minority Village and others explored on their own. I will have to post video and photos at a later time.

We had a wonderful concert tonight. The audience was receptive and showed their appreciation with applause. I thought it was one of our best evenings thus far. After the concert we all came back to the hotel for dinner and a celebration of the tour with many toasts.

We have an early morning tomorrow. We will leave the hotel at 6:00 am and head to the airport. We should arrive in Beijing around 11:30 and have decided to head right to the sight seeing and then the concert hall for rehearsal. We will have to eat at McDonald’s after the concert as that will be one of the few places open. Then we will head to the hotel. We decided to change the schedule a bit so that we could see the things we are hoping to see.

I don’t know what type of internet connection I will have tomorrow night. And with such a little amount of time in the next two days I may not be able to update many photos or video so this may be the last posting until I arrive back in Boston on Thursday. But check in around this time tomorrow and see if I was able to add anything. I will add some videos from yesterday into today’s posting.

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Day Three in Kunming

I think it is safe to say the everyone is really enjoying their time in Kunming. The band is really starting to sound great as the multiple performances and rest have all contributed to and ensemble that plays as one. Tours are so important for ensembles. We often have few rehearsals and then perform works once. A tour allows the ensemble to really come together and play beyond the notes on the page. It is a wonderful experience that cannot be described but only experience. Having the opportunity to get to know the members of the ensemble, find out about their families and lives and then join together and focus on playing music as one is magical. With each performance I find something new about the music and a deeper insight, regardless what the piece is.

Our visit to the World Expo Horticultural Exposition was fabulous. Yes there were plants but what I found to be the most interesting was the focus on the different provinces of China. Each was represented by displays of buildings and art unique to that area. It really gave me a stronger interest in finding out more about China.

We had a break from the hotel restaurant and went to a beautiful restaurant close by. All the meals are a production. After having some appetizers they brought us bowls of boiling broth to which we added meat, vegetables and spice along with noodles. Was tasty and refreshing. Chops sticks work fine for the noodles but we all enjoyed lifting the bowl to our lips and drinking from our bowl as well. It may not be proper in the US but is part of eating in China.

Today many of us will be going to the Minority Villiage. I have failed to study up on it ahead of time so will be a new experience for me. As I understand a large number of minority cultures and represented. Many spend a whole day there. We will only spend a small amount of time.

Tonight will be an important performance. The concert will be video taped for our purposes. There will be five cameras working. We will be able to use the video for our promotion and each of us will be able to get a copy. We are all a bit concerned about getting back to the hotel early enough in the afternoon to get some rest before the concert.

I will post some more videos and photos as I get a chance. It takes a little time to edit and I get to busy seeing the city to properly post and document so be patient. I am uploading photos to http://www.meolson.smugmug as quickly as I can and to do so am leaving out comments but will add them in time.

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Day Two in Kunming

We had a fun day yesterday. I began the day by doing a little exploration around the hotel on my own. There seemed to be a big sale on electronics and three stores right next to each other were competing and had a number of people working to draw buyers to their store.

The weather in Kunming is wonderful. Hard to believe it is the beginning of a New Year and I can wander around without a jacket. Well I am usually in North Dakota which is cold, like Beijing will be.

Most of us walked to the theatre yesterday to know how to get there and then on the way back went to an open market. Instead of doing a lot of writing today I thought I would let some videos give you a sense of what I saw.

The concert went well last night. The house was not full but the audience was more responsive than in the past few nights. I do wish I could speak the language so we can have more of an opportunity to communicate.

Today some of us will be going to a Botanical Gardens and I think may be eating lunch at a place that is not our hotel. Others will just be exploring the city.

I keep updating photos at so be sure to check now and then for anything new.

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Happy New Year from Kunming

Happy New Year. Yes we have already celebrated while our families back home are just having lunch. As I was enjoying the fun and family celebration last year in North Dakota I didn’t think I would be celebration the start of 2011 from Kunming, China this year. After midnight I went for a walk outside around the hotel without a jacket on. Temps were probably in the 60’s.

We arrived safe and sound after a very short night of sleep. We were all ready for some breakfast and some sleep. Well at least some of us got sleep but no one got breakfast. We did have an early lunch. After lunch I needed sleep so did take a nap till time to get ready for the concert. I think some were able to do a little sight seeing yesterday afternoon.

Our concert was in the conference center in Kunming. Good attendance and was a nice hall to play in. I could hear the ensemble on stage well and a few other players commented on that. It really helped to be able to lock in better but still was not as tight as I would like us to be sounding. Again the audience seemed a little reserved but enjoyed the concert.

We got back around 11:30 and had dinner and welcomed the new year. I heard fireworks out my window at midnight and did see them a little. Those who were already at dinner on the 28th floor said they saw them.

The hotels we have stayed at are pretty modern. They have for the most part connection to the internet and plugging in electric devises are no problem. I bought a converter but have not needed it at all. Maybe in Beijing. This blog site however is blocked I think but I am able to get to it due to using a VPN connection.

Today is sightseeing day. Song will take any who want to go on a walking tour at 11:00 this morning. Some are heading to a Yamaha music store. We did see a Wal-mart as we drove in from the airport. There is a McDonalds and a KFC within a block of the hotel but all our meals are in the hotel. And the meals for the most part have been very good so no need to break down to the fast food chains.

I have been able to take a few photos and have uploaded them to my photo site at I will keep posting as I can and possibly get some videos uploaded later as well.

Mark Zielinski

Fellow trumpet player Mark Zielinski posing infront of the Kunming Convention center.

Mark Olson and director Keith Brion at intermission of the first Kunming Concert

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Chengdu–Short Visit

And now we are on our way from Chengdu. We arrived yesterday afternoon after having the opportunity to sleep in just a bit. We flew into Chengdu and then took buses to Yaan for a concert. Our hopes to visit the Panda Reserve and rehearse changed as we arrived in town late and needed to do a sound check. The concert was recorded and televised. This was part of the 10th Anniversary Celebration of the incorporation of Yaan and so there was lots of government support for the concert. Despite a rushed schedule the band played well and were well received. As with the audience in Yinchuan they didn’t applaud much but were very appreciated and seemed to really enjoy the performance. My only regret now is that we don’t have more time to interact with the people and visit with them. Time and language barriers prevent that.

And now on to our next destination. We arrived at the hotel last night after 1:00 am (I think we got a little lost on the way). After a short night we woke at 4:30 am and on our way to the airport. Everyone is looking forward to being at the same hotel for the next 4 nights and getting time to sight see and relax.

Piano moving

This is how they move a piano.

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Yinchuan, a Different City

welcome banner in Yinchuan

Welcome to Yinchuan

We arrived at the next destination of our journey, Yinchuan. It was about a 3 hour flight from Shanghai. Very different from Shanghai and will take a bit of time later to talk about the differences.

We have a large group meet us at the airport and had a big banner. A much more formal occassion. Keith was given a bouquet of flowers and many people were there to help us with our luggage.

Keith receiving flowers

Keith Brion was presented flowers on his arrival to Yinchuan

Will have some time in the morning to share some thoughts on the trip so far so hope you all check in later.

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Finally have arrived

sunset in Tokyo

Sunset in Tokyo

A late post but will publish it anyway.

After about 24 hours of travel I have arrived in Shanghai. I left Edinburg, ND at 7:35 in the morning local time and landed in Shanghai at about 7:25 the next morning, Edinburg, ND time. By the time we got to the hotel about 27 hours had passed since I left the midwest. Now with a good nights sleep I am ready for a full day.

I think most all the members have arrived by now. It has been fun seeing everyone again at breakfast. We will soon head out for the day with 6 hours of rehearsal scheduled and a concert yet tonight.

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