If “Improvisation on Jazz and Blues Cum Masterclass” doesn’t sound like your typical Chinese college course, it is probably because you don’t know more about China and specifically don’t know more about Gary Billups.
Billups, a long-time music educator from Scioto County, and currently a resident oft Wheelersburg, makes his annual trek to China where young students are once again turned on by American Jazz. In fact, Billups is there this week.
“I am doing improvisational workshops,” Billups told the Daily Times. “I am teaching them how to start improvising jazz, blues, and pop music.” In China younger musicians are gravitating towards jazz, as well as playing pop and rock.
Billups is teaching mainly at Hong Kong Institute of Education, a teachers college of about 10 thousand.
“Also I will doing some secondary schools in the area,” Billups said. “In addition I will be playing a couple of concerts downtown.”
To say this has become a way of life for Billups is an understatement.
“This is my fourth year doing this and they love American music,” Billups said. “Most of the students are classical trained and are very good musicians. They are very easy to teach because they already have an excellent background.”
On Friday this week a concert will feature Billups along with a jazz instrumental ensemble and a vocal jazz ensemble at the Tai Po Campus for the Hong Kong Institute of Education.
It is obvious since he is regularly invited back that the students must be gaining new knowledge of the genre, but what does Billups bring back from his trips to China?
“I enjoy doing it because it gives me self satisfaction,” Billups said. “Also they are very hard workers and are fun to teach. I also get to advance my knowledge in teaching and playing.”
Billups said the Institute of Education is one of the top colleges not only in China but in Asia.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.