About the Author

I was in high school when the Philadelphia Orchestra made its historic journey to China. It was front-page news that came and went. Little did I know how that tour would command my attention so many years later.

 

This journey into the past started with a reporting assignment for The Philadelphia Inquirer. In 2008, the Philadelphia Orchestra was touring China and marking the 35th anniversary of its groundbreaking 1973 tour with a special concert in Beijing. The paper’s music critics could not make the trip so the editors sent me, a China correspondent in the 1990s.

 

On the night of the big concert, held in the same venue as the 1973 performances, I interviewed Chinese concertgoers and was struck by the sincere, deep nostalgia that people had for the orchestra. Many older patrons shared with great fondness and clarity their recollections of the groundbreaking 1973 visit. As Nicholas Platt explains in his foreword, the Philadelphia Orchestra was a household name in China.

Returning home, I was convinced that this was a story that not only should be read, but heard and seen. I teamed up with executive producer Sam Katz, the founder of History Making Productions, and co-director Sharon Mullally to make a documentary.

In writing the script, I learned that building a visual story required a different set of skills and discipline. I did not have the luxury of letting anecdotes ramble, or taking detours with the narrative. As they say, so much material was left on the metaphorical cutting room floor of the edit room. Then, when the corona virus swept across the United States in March 2020 and we were forced to quarantine, I saw the months of isolation as an opportunity to turn the hours and hours of untapped material into a book.

I focus the lens on the 1973 tour, the starting point for the orchestra’s nearly half-century of involvement in China and a fading chapter in the history of U.S.-China relations. The notion of “ping pong diplomacy” is familiar to many, but music diplomacy arguably has left a more lasting legacy that resonates yet today.

This book lets the women and men who lived that moment tell the story in their own words.

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Jennifer Lin
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