by Ayvaunn Penn, Your Black World
Yes, you read correctly. A 15-year-old African-American boy from Oakland, California, has been recognized for his talent of singing Chinese opera not only in the United States but also in China. According to the Associated Press, it is not merely Tyler Thompson’s ability to sing but his specific “ability to sing pitch-perfect Mandarin and perform the ancient Chinese art form.”
The origins of this extraordinary young man’s talent go all the way back to when he was a kindergarten student at Oakland Lincoln Elementary school. This particular school has a student population comprised of about 90 percent Asian students. It was at this time that he first began learning how to sing Chinese music in Sherlyn Chew’s class. Now that Thompson is at the age of 15, the Associated Press reports:
“Tyler… is a standout student in Chew’s Oakland-based Purple Silk Music Education program, which teaches children and youth — mostly from low-income immigrant families — how to sing and play traditional Chinese music….Tyler has learned to sing several well-known pieces of Chinese opera, a centuries-old form of musical theater known for its elaborate costumes, clanging gongs and cymbals, wide-ranging vocals and highly stylized movements.”
Thompson’s music instructor by the name of Sherlyn Chew says, “As soon as he opens his mouth and sings in Chinese, the Chinese are very surprised and then feel very proud of him. When he puts on the costume, and all the acting, you can see that he’s pretty good.” Thompson has had many outstanding performance opportunities. The Associated Press reports:
“Since his first solo at age 6, Tyler has performed at San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall and Herbst Theater, on television shows such as Good Morning America and at the U.S. State Department, where he sang for then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi. Tyler became a sensation in China several years ago after Chinese Central Television broadcast his performance at a Lunar New Year show in San Jose. Tyler, who has learned to speak some basic Chinese, was scheduled to make his debut performance in China in July, but he and his mother ran into trouble getting visas in time, Chew said.”
Thompson, who is now a student at the Oakland School for the Arts, says, “The music is very beautiful, and it’s very passionate. You can hear it when it’s being played. It’s made me want to know more about the world outside of America or California or Oakland.” To that, his mother says, “He’s grown a lot. He’s learning a different culture, and the Asian children are learning his culture, so it’s a plus-plus for everybody.”
Ayvaunn Penn is the founder of Your Black Poets and an award winning writer completing her degree in English and philosophy. To inquire about her freelance editing services, click here. To like Ayvaunn on Facebook, click here.