Fulbright scholar's journey to China begins this summer


jason pockrus

Packing up his sax and preparing to experience a different culture through music, Jason Pockrus, Adams State University alumnus and Fulbright Scholar, travels to China for a year of intense study.

Pockrus' Fulbright grant project focuses on the collaboration between the saxophone, his instrument, and traditional Chinese music. "I want to explore the possibilities of transcribing traditional Chinese music for saxophone and performing those transcriptions alongside performers of traditional instruments." He'll do this through lessons with professors at the conservatory, meeting and interacting with students of traditional instruments, and performing the music whenever possible.

"I also hope to take this new type of interaction to the performing venues outside of the conservatory including schools, public venues, and even to the smaller towns surrounding Chengdu." Outside of the research for his grant project, he plans to become involved in the community of saxophonists in China. "Attending conferences, giving and attending performances, and meeting with students at the many conservatories around the country will give me an insight into the saxophone scene in China."

According to Pockrus, not much is known about the music education system in China and especially the place of saxophone within the major conservatories. "This gave me an idea to find out what is happening and then bring that information to musicians worldwide." He also likes the idea of traveling to a place that would be interesting, different, and unique. "This experience will impact my life, even if everything does not unfold as I envision right now."

He will travel to China on July 4, after first attending a Fulbright Orientation in Washington, D.C., the weekend before. He returns home in the summer of 2015.

"Two years ago I came to the somewhat sudden realization that I would soon be finishing my coursework and would then begin the arduous task of finding employment." He decided to look abroad and honed in on China for several reasons. "First, you can't turn on the news without hearing talk of China's rapid economic development. If history is any indicator, we know that an increase in wealth and standard of living is quickly followed by an increased interest in the arts."

He will start his extended visit with an intensive Chinese language school in Harbin city, Heilongjiang province. After that, his main project will be carried out at the Sichuan Conservatory of Music in Chengdu city, Sichuan province in southwest China. During his year he hopes to visit the eight other major conservatories around China, including the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, China Conservatory of Music in Beijing, the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in Shanghai, Tianjin Conservatory of Music in Tianjin, Shenyang COM in Shenyang, Wuhan COM, Xi'an COM, and the Xinghai COM in Guangzhou.

Since the main goal of the Fulbright program is cultural exchange, at the completion of the grant period, Pockrus hopes to return to the US and give performances and talks that will represent the "incredible musical possibilities that can be created through ventures such as these."

In 2008, Pockrus received a bachelor's degree in music education from Adams State; he earned a master's in instrumental performance at the University of New Mexico; and is currently a doctoral candidate for the Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of North Texas.

Pockrus still appreciates the interaction with the music faculty at Adams State. "I consider Dr. Tracy Doyle (chair of the Music Department) one of my greatest mentors." Even after graduation, Doyle kept in touch. "For the Fulbright, she was an invaluable source of knowledge and encouragement. Without the support of Dr. Doyle, and many others over the years, none of this would have been possible."

According to the website, Fulbright, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide. The program currently awards approximately 1,900 grants annually in all fields of study, and operates in more than 140 countries worldwide.