Area Students Heading To China

Tom Connor

Journey East Website

March 23, 2012 Townshend, VT  IMG 7791Since being accepted into the program in February of 2011, 18 high school students from host Leland and Gray and area schools have been gearing up to depart for a month-long performance tour of China as a part of “Journey East: Leland and Gray’s Sino-American Academy and Arts Exchange.” Beginning this past January, the 18 students, ranging in age from 14 to 17, have been enrolled in China-related courses at Leland and Gray in preparation for their month-long performance /study tour of China.

Initiated at Leland and Gray in 2000, the Journey East Program has provided over 200 high school students with the opportunity to study China in depth and to spend an unforgettable month experiencing China firsthand. The program has hosted students from area schools such as Leland and Gray, Brattleboro, Bellows Falls, Green Mountain, The Compass School, Twin Valley and Burr and Burton.


A central focus of the Journey East program is an original production developed by the students with musical and artistic direction from long-time Leland and Gray music teacher Ron Kelley and Ms. Jennifer Connor, both of whom have had extensive experience developing programs that bridge cultural barriers. The show is comprised of various live songs, skits, dancing, and juggling; utilizing the diverse talents of the many students and all woven together to create a truly stunning performance. Due to the language barrier between the American students and Chinese audiences, the show is based almost entirely on non-verbal communication. The show will be performed in several Chinese primary and middle schools, colleges, and universities in Chongqing and cities in Sichuan Province in southwest China, Shandong Province in eastern China and in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, an Autonomous Region to the north of Beijing.

IMG 7750During their stay in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, the students will take up residence at The Arts College of Inner Mongolia University where they will collaborate with Chinese/Mongolian teachers and students, each sharing their knowledge of songs, dances, and instruments from their culture with one another

The culmination of the program in China will be a final, joint performance of vocal and instrumental music and dance for an audience of over 1,500 people between the Journey East students and their new and, in some cases old, friends from Inner Mongolia.

The Journey East curriculum includes Chinese Language instruction, Chorus, Chinese Cultural Studies, and Production Workshop. The students are fortunate enough to be taught the Chinese language by Ms. Tong Chen, the 2012 Vermont Teacher of the Year. The course focuses on conversational Mandarin, character writing, pronunciation and grammar. Chorus is in conjunction with the high school choir led by Ron Kelley, the musical director and a chaperone of Journey East. Program Director Mr. Tom Connor, teaches Chinese Cultural Studies., the focus of which is to introduce the students to Chinese culture and history before being immersed in an unfamiliar society.

Upon returning from China, the students engage in an in-depth study of an aspect of China that they have found to be particularly interesting and will create a multi-media presentation on that topic.

Former elementary and middle school teachers of these students are encouraged to have the Journey East participants present to their current students as these young men and women will have a treasure trove of information and experiences to share.

Their will be a final showing of the student production “Spontaneous Combustion” on May 5 at 7:30 in the Dutton Gym at Leland and Gray High School.

For more information on the trip, the performance, and the Journey East program, visit and

The website will be updated with photos and student essays and reflections on a daily basis beginning on March 29 and extending through April 24.

IMG 7807The ensemble:

Libby Annis, Dummerston, Brattleboro Union High School

Sophie Bady-Kaye, Putney, The Compass School

Muriel Chase, Chester, Green Mountain Union High School

Arik Clark, Newfane, LGUHS

Genevieve Darling, South Newfane, LGUHS

Anwyn Darrow, Brattleboro, Brattleboro Union High School

Giannina Gaspero-Beckstrom, Newfane, LGUHS

Eric Ginter, Townshend, LGUHS

Erik Johansson, Marlboro, Brattleboro Union High School

Robin Joslin, Wardsboro, LGUHS

Chris Lasch, South Newfane, LGUHS

Alexa Litchfield, Jamaica, LGUHS

Addie Mahdavi, Newfane, LGUHS

Claire Miramontes, Newfane, LGUHS

Fraser Query, Jamaica/Guilford, LGUHS

Alana Redden, South Newfane, LGUHS

Stephen Scott, Jamaica, LGUHS

Zoe Soule, Wardsboro, LGUHS

Tom Connor, Jamaica, Program Director

Ron Kelley, Jamaica, Musical Director

Jessica Reiminschneider, Brattleboro, Teacher, Chaperone

Kim Soule, West Wardsboro, Parent, Chaperone