Rah, Rah and Louie, Louie

July 31, 2001

by Steven Goldsmith
University Week

The University of Washington Husky Band's summer tour of China drewwildly enthusiastic audiences while offering that ancient civilization itsfirst exposure to an American collegiate tradition: the halftime show.

More than 4,000 Chinese onlookers whooped and cheered June 28 as the65-piece Husky Band burst into Beijing University's main campus square, inone of several performances during the band's historic two-week tour.

Before the Huskies marched in, Chinese exposure to marching bands hadconsisted of military units moving methodically to patriotic marches, saidHusky bandleader Brad McDavid.

What the Huskies provided were boisterous renditions of 'Tequila' and'Louie Louie' with instruments and players bobbing up and down while theensemble melted in and out of Figure Eights at double-time speed.

'What everybody said they really enjoyed was the passion with which weplayed,' said McDavid, whose 97-member delegation included family members aswell as the 65 Husky student and alumni performers.

While the Huskies may not have completely loosened the current strainsin Sino-American relations, they reported receiving nothing but warmth fromChinese audiences during the tour that ended July 5.

Beijing University allowed the band to mark off nearly a football fieldin its vast marble main square, enabling the Huskies to approximate thelicks that helped cheer on this year's winning Rose Bowl squad.

The band also performed at the Great Wall of China and shared the stagewith two Chinese ensembles at Jiao Tong University in Shanghai.

While it made band members sweat to play their tubas, horns and drumsin China's 95-degree smog, the tour was the experience of a lifetime, saidfield assistant Scott Higbee.

'That's really what it's all about,' Higbee said, 'to see a differentculture.'

The UW delegation ranged in age from freshmen to 61-year-old alumnus(and baritone horn player) Floyd Cronkite.

Whatever their age, members raised their own $2,100 fares for the HuskyBand's second overseas summer tour - the first had been a 1998 trip toAustralia and Fiji.

The goal, McDavid, is to head overseas every three years.

Participants in China said a particular thrill was being a guest of thePeople's Liberation Army Band, with its rich history of performing forvisiting heads of state. The Huskies got to use the national band'srehearsal hall and have lunch with its director.

There was no indication, however, that the People's Liberation Army Bandplans anytime soon to incorporate 'Tequila' into its repertoire.

Thanks to University Week for use of this story.

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