The Art Of Becoming Sister Cities — Why A Group Of LA Jazz Students Went On A Trip To Chengdu

Students and alumni of Hamilton High's jazz program before boarding a flight to Chengdu (Photo Courtesy of Sister Cities of Los Angeles)

Fun fact: Right now, L.A. has 25 Sister Cities on six continents. But wait! There could be more. The diplomatic organization Sister Cities of Los Angeles is trying to add more sisters in China.

The organization, which aims to build relationships between local institutions and those abroad, recently took a trip to Chengdu and Shanghai — and brought along a band of jazz students from L.A.

The young people are all students and alumni of the jazz program at Alexander Hamilton High.

"Not only are these kids very talented musicians, and not only were they going to be sharing a truly american, wonderful art form, jazz, but they are also very representative of our city," Sister Cities senior program manager Teresa Dahl explained. "They come as far as the West Valley to South L.A., East L.A. They're from all over the city, all sorts of backgrounds."

In addition to tours and meetings, the high school musicians represented Los Angeles for the first time in the annual Sister Cities International Youth Music Festival.

The students represented L.A. for the first time in the annual Sister Cities International Youth Music Festival. (Photo Courtesy of SCOLA)

"The Australian band and the Israeli band ... had a different style of music than we did, but they played the same instruments," trumpet player Kelsey Kelly observed. "And it was amazing to see how people interpret music differently."

Many of the students had never been outside of the U.S. before. But Dahl observed, that did not slow them down one bit.

"The kids were so resourceful with their iPhones and their Google Translators, and they were so anxious and eager to get out and talk to people," Dahl explained.

Kelly said that was one of her biggest takeaways from the trip, aside from the music.

"I used to be super shy, but going on this trip ... helped me, because you have to talk to people," Kelly said. "Now, I have friends who live in China, people in Australia, Austria, Israel. I would never think I would have friends from all around the world."

Tenor sax player Ronnie Heard kept a diary of the trip in his phone. Here are some of the thoughts and sounds he sent to us:

You can hear more from their trip abroad — including excerpts from trumpet player Kelsey Kelly's audio diaries — by checking out the radio version of this story. You can listen to it over on KPCC's website.


You made it! Congrats, you read the entire story, you gorgeous human. This story was made possible by generous people like you. Independent, local journalism costs $$$$$. And now that LAist is part of KPCC, we rely on that support. So if you aren't already, be one of us! Help us help you live your best life in Southern California. Donate now.