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A first-of-its-kind workshop in China is but one example of the distinctive opportunities provided by the Valparaiso University Graduate School’s Arts and Entertainment Administration (AEA) program for students to expand their professional careers within performing arts, theatre, and entertainment.

In March, the Arts and Entertainment Administration program presented its first professional workshop in Beijing, China. The program helped graduate students at the University and other institutions further their education and build relationships within China’s entertainment industry.

At an AEA Advisory Council meeting in April, participants, including Jianyun Meng, a native of China and director of the Confucius Institute at Valpo, gave a presentation on the workshop to board members, and discussed the overall successes and how to enhance the program for next year.

Meng said the program was the “first workshop of this kind in China, which provided and will continue to provide a cross-cultural platform for American and Chinese practioners, educators and students of performing arts management to exchange ideas as well as to find opportunities for collaboration.”

Kathleen Gibson, assistant dean of Valpo’s Graduate School, discussed how the program has improved the University’s curriculum.

“We have distinguished ourselves as an international program, offering many opportunities in an environment that features interactive learning,” Gibson said.

The four-day workshop included both American students and native students from the most prestigious universities in China, collaborating together to answer the larger question: “How can the United States and China cross-market their entertainment industries?”

Several high-ranking Chinese officials spoke at the workshop.

Zheng Wen, director of the Office of Foreign Exchange at the Ministry of Culture of China, pointed out that following its successful economical reformation, China is launching another big wave of reformation that will turn the country’s large amount of government-controlled cultural activities into another market-oriented pillar industry to support the sustainability of China’s economic growth.

Zheng also said that China needs to export more of its cultural products for profit and soft power. To facilitate the rapid growth of China’s cultural market and industry, Zheng said China needs a large number of highly trained professionals and managerial talents who are able to function in a global environment.

Another high-ranking Chinese official who spoke at the workshop was the vice chairman of China’s National Association of Performance Promoters, Zhu Kening. According to Zhu, Chinese people love live performances and last year alone more than 2 million performances were reported to have been presented in China. Chinese people also love shows presented by foreign artists, he said. Musicals like “Cats,” and “Mama Mia,” and concerts by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra were all warmly received by Chinese audiences. However, of the 2 million performances mentioned above, only about 2,000 were presented by foreign artists due to a lack of managerial talent who can bring foreign, especially American performers, and the vast Chinese market together.

Zhu said he was very happy the workshop gave him the opportunity to tell American students about the unlimited potential of China’s performance market, and he hopes that more Chinese and American students can gain the skills and insight necessary to cross-promote and produce international entertainment in and outside of China.

The workshop also attracted representatives of performance agencies from different parts of China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Wuhan and Shenzhen. China’s largest Xinhua News Agency, two other national newspapers and several local newspapers published special reports about the workshop.

Professors from American and Chinese institutions taught students about marketing and promotional aspects within the entertainment industry, both in the United States and China. Charlie Blum, president and CEO of Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville, Ind., and a member of the Graduate School’s AEA advisory council, was featured as the guest presenter at the workshop.

Valpo graduate students and workshop participants John Bayard and Yi Ke discussed their experience at the AEA Advisory Council meeting with the help of Yue Wu, who shared pictures he took during the workshop. Bayard said nightly seminars focused on promoting Chinese acts, such as ballet, classical China musicals, and Beijing opera shows, within the American entertainment culture.

“Americans are more focused on pop culture, as the Chinese are interested in the high cultural performances,” Bayard said.

The next workshop is scheduled for March 2013 in Beijing.

“It was a very exciting experience and a total success,” Gibson said. “We need to continue to dream big dreams for this program.”

About Valparaiso University
Valparaiso University is a comprehensive independent Lutheran university with more than 4,000 students on its campus located in Northwest Indiana, an hour from Chicago. Valpo is a community of purpose-driven, service-minded and ethical individuals who embrace the pursuit of truth with freedom, humility and compassion. Valpo has been identified as one of the top master’s-level institutions in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report magazine for the past 22 years. Valparaiso University offers 110 undergraduate academic programs through the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business Administration, Engineering and Nursing. Valpo also has a distinguished honors college, a School of Law and more than 40 degree and certificate programs in its Graduate School and Continuing Education Division. Valpo has been recognized for its commitment to outstanding teaching, preparing thoughtful leaders with strong cross-cultural skills and global awareness, and dedication to serving others.