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Walnut valley Unified School District

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Challenger Band Becomes Global Ambassadors

NEWS                                                                                    Walnut Valley Unified School District
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                             880 S. Lemon Avenue
January 28, 2013                                                                 Walnut, CA 91789

Kelli Gile, Office of Community Resources
(909)595-1261 ext. 31204

Suzanne Challenger Band Becomes Global Ambassadors

WALNUT, CA—Instrumental Music Director Ami Garvin has always told her 8th grade Challenger Band musicians at Suzanne Middle School that they are ambassadors of music because they are leaders on campus and they represent the school during performances.

And now that phrase has taken on a new meaning to the 75 band members.

They have become global ambassadors.

On Tuesday, January 22, the Walnut band members met 42 musicians from their Shanghai Sister School, the Gaoqiao Middle School, for the very first time.

The American and Chinese students had become pen pals by emailing and getting to know each other since October, Garvin said.

During the international exchange, the groups performed a free joint concert at the Walnut High School Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, January 23. A dessert reception followed the special event.

“We knew the biggest challenge was going to be in rehearsals, since I didn’t speak Mandarin and they didn’t speak much English.  The beauty of music is that it’s a universal language.  The notes speak for themselves.” Garvin said.

The partnership began when Principal Ojeda visited the Shanghai school last year, then that principal came to Suzanne.

“I am extremely proud of being able to host this wonderful collaborative event between two schools a world apart.  It was an evening of great music and a wonderful spirit of friendship.  Our students were able to make new friends and they will remember this event the rest of their lives,” said Principal Les Ojeda.

The Sister Schools began sharing music too.

“Their conductor arranged a Chinese folk song for us to play together.  I sent them “The Wild Westerns” to showcase music from the American frontier,” Garvin said.

Six Challenger musicians were invited to go to Disneyland with the Shanghai students.

“It makes me feel good to see when students from foreign countries come to the US and leave Disneyland very cheerful, “ said female trombone player McKenzie Swift-Ramirez.


The Suzanne Challenger Band and visiting students from the Sister School in Shanghai performed a joint concert on January 23 on the Walnut High Performing Arts Center stage. 

Clarinet players and new friends Dillon Ban with his Gaoqiao MS pen pal Susan. 

Matthew Distante and Karina Galvan with fellow tuba player Zhenyu from Gaoqiao MS. 

Flutists Sheryl Ly and penpal Jenny from Gaoqiao MS posed for a photo. 

Matthew Lin and Mrs. Garvin posed with several Gaoqiao MS musicians.  Matthew said, “I really enjoyed performing with my new friends from Gaoqiao MS.  It was an unforgettable experience.”