Developing Taiwan’s National Symphony for Chiang Kai Shek Hall – Dr. Edward P. Sandor – Taiwan 1985-86

I was brought to Taipei to help form a new national (Western) symphony orchestra, to teach the most promising Chinese brass instrumentalists in preparation for the orchestra, to “coach” the existing professional brass players, and to serve on an advisory board for the new national concert venue in Taipei, Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall. Others involved in this endeavor were a French flutist, a Berlin Philharmonic violinist, and several European music directors/conductors who rotated in for the year.

I spent the year in countless rehearsals and lessons of a formal nature, but I also had the opportunity to perform at the regional cultural centers, meet many Western music enthusiasts, and of equal importance, learn much more about Eastern music practices, Chinese traditional instruments, and about the significant number of Chinese composers who were crafting new music that blended the traditions, formal structures, and sound pallets of both traditions. For my family and me, these were exhilarating times.

In addition to the friendships we developed through our living arrangements and with the Foundation for Scholarly Exchange in Taipei (Wu, Jing Jyi, Director), I developed a wonderful group of musician friends/colleagues mostly from the Taiwan National Symphony and other friends through the Taipei American School, in which our children were enrolled. With these friends, my family and I explored many facets of the culture. I have fondly recounted many stories from that year’s residency over the years, but there is little room for story telling in this forum.

Examples of the profound impact the Fulbright year had on me and my family are found in my older daughter’s eventual college major, Asian Studies, her internship with the U.S. Department of State, and her law degree and aspirations of work in international law. Our younger daughter, a DMA in Cello performance from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and a chaired professor at Drake University, returned to the Chinese culture early in her professional career to perform in Taiwan and across China, teaching for two years at the famed Shanghai Conservatory of Music. My wife, Dr. Janet Sandor, who worked at the Foundation for Scholarly Exchange during our Taiwan residency, eventually became a leader in International Studies at the University of Georgia, traveled back to Taiwan and mainland China several times, and was an Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs at UGA.

I traveled back to Taiwan five years later on a short-term Fulbright to see the fruits of my original labors and to continue mentoring the young professionals who had been my students in 1985-86. I arranged a concert tour of Taiwan, Korea, and China in 1987, and have stayed in touch with some of the musicians I first knew as students during the mid-1980s. The photos below show a commemorative plaque presented to me by the Taiwan musicians on my departure, and a photo of me soloing with the orchestra during the Fulbright year.

Dr. Edward P. Sandor – Fulbright to Taiwan 1985-86

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