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Faces in the crowd: band director travels to Taiwan

 

We’ve all received that random phone call. Usually it’s asking us for credit card information or telling us that we’ve won some sort of time share, but in some rare cases, like that of William DeJournett, they present something well worth the time of an unexpected phone call. 

DeJournett, associate music professor and associate band director at the University of Mississippi, said he received a phone call from a young man from the Houston branch of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office. The man explained that he is the cultural and tourism outreach liaison for the United States, and he said the city of Chiayi was hosting the World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles International Convention (WASBE) in conjunction with the Republic of China’s (Taiwan) Centennial Celebration. 

“He said, ‘We are looking for an American college band director who has significant writing background to cover the event,’” DeJournett said. “I said, ‘That sounds fantastic.’ About a week and a half later, he called and said that I had been selected.”

When the itinerary came out, DeJournett discovered that he was to cover the opening ceremonies. 

“The rest of the trip the Taiwanese government wanted to show this international press junkett,” he said. “There was a guy from Spain, a guy from the Czech Republic, from Italy, from South Korea, two people from the Philippines, from Japan. Just all over the world.

“There wasn’t a single person I didn’t like in that group.”

The Americus, Ga., native said he was shown different areas of Taiwan. 

“They took us into the Alishan mountains, and it was just absolutely gorgeous,” DeJournett said. “The highlight of the trip for me was when they took us to the peak of the tallest mountain the morning of July 4th to watch the sun rise at 5:20 in the morning.  I got some great photos of that. The other really interesting thing about the Alishan Mountains was getting to see a village and tea farm run by the Tsou, an aboriginal Taiwanese tribe.”

DeJournett said he was warned about the weather in Taiwan. 

“Everyone warned me that it’s going to be really hot, so pack lots of loose clothes,” he said. “I got there, and the first thing that I noticed was that ‘this is no worse than Mississippi.’”

DeJournett said even though he “doesn’t understand a lick of Mandarin,” he didn’t feel like he was in a foreign country.

“The people there are really kind, and it really didn’t feel very foreign to me,” he said. 

DeJournett said the actual ceremony was a cool experience. 

“It was pretty amazing the amount of resources that Chiayi put into (the conference),” he said. “They shut down downtown Chiayi. They had television cameras everywhere, huge posters and you would have thought it was hosting the Superbowl. I have never seen this kind of attention for a band conference in my life. There were bands performing in the parade and the subsequent field show in the Chiayi City Stadium from all over Asia and even a band from Russia. It was interesting to see and hear the different approaches to marching and music.”

DeJournett said he would love to go back to WASBE in the future. 

“I would like to go back and actually get to attend more of the conference itself,” the French horn player said. “That was one thing about the trip, that I wanted to see a little bit more of. I would love to go back to that conference again and hear more of the concerts and get to see different parts of Taiwan.”

DeJournett said as well that he wants to revisit Taiwan at some point in time if he could. 

“There are a lot of things that we didn’t get to see,” he said. “Some coastal areas of the eastern side of the island, I’m told, are very beautiful.”

DeJournett said he enjoyed it and found out a few interesting points about flying overseas. 

“My flight from Taipei departed that Wednesday night at 11:25 p.m., and I arrived in Los Angeles at about 9:25 p.m. So I got there before I left,” he laughed. “I found out jet lag is a serious thing.”