The 1985 Baker Band/Choir Trip to Taiwan, Japan and Hawaii…
By: Jerry Weakley
In the summer of 1983, I had the pleasure and opportunity of accompanying Dr. Thomas Boyd, vice president for development, and other university administrators and professors to Taiwan for the purpose of discussing and completing a “Sister College Relationship” with Ming Chuan College of Taipei. Following the many meetings and discussions on that topic and the formalization in principle of the agreement, I remained behind for an additional week to film, direct, assemble and add commentary to a documentary of the school and country. I was aided in my work by Dr. Bruce Gau of the Radio/TV department of Ming Chuan.
The film when completed was then used to acquaint students at Baker and professors with Ming Chuan College and the country of Taiwan. The film was used to better acquaint Baker faculty members with the surroundings they would encounter for those who would subsequently teach “in residence” for a semester at Ming Chuan in succeeding years. Professor Robert Miller later was selected and served in that initial role, also accompanied by his wife, Shirley.
An additional agreement to the educational requirements relationship formed during those meetings was that not only would Ming Chuan students be welcomed and encouraged to enroll at Baker with a prescribed set of additional requirements for graduation but Baker would also organize and conduct a Band and Choir Tour for our own students, faculty, administration, alumni and parents to Taiwan and to Ming Chuan.
Upon return to Baker, I immediately began working alongside the Music faculty and fellow administrators to organize the administrative details of the trip which was established for the January interterm of 1985.
The trip was organized with thousands of details and moving parts and in the end, 144 students, administrators, faculty members, alumni and parents took part in the trip that lasted over two weeks. The size of the Baker group was at that time the largest single university tour group to tour Taiwan. (The scariest part for me personally was that I had to hand carry every student passport in a briefcase during the entire trip least one got lost. And, at that time, I was told that an American passport was worth about $10,000 on the black market… so the thought of someone cutting off my arm to get the briefcase since it was handcuffed to me did enter my head from time to time!) Back then the airlines allowed one group leader to check in all the people in the group which was also a duty I performed. Having all the passports together in one place made the check in process go much more quickly.
We flew through Minneapolis to Seattle and then onto Chang Kai-shek International Airport in Taiwan. The 20+ hours of travel were exhausting but most everyone held up well.
In this short blog I will not go day by day detailing the activities but only mention a few of the most memorable. To begin with, the first day all the Baker group were to march up the hill (some will insert “mountain” here) to Ming Chuan where the band, choir, cheerleaders and flag corps would perform for the assembled Ming Chuan Officers, administration, faculty and students. As preparations were made to depart our accommodations for the performance it was learned that the instruments were still at the airport in bond and thus in storage.
An emergency trip to the airport by Dr. Chuan Lee, Vice President and son of the Co-Presidents of Ming Chuan, along with Dr. Boyd of Baker finally produced the instruments just in time for the performance following a long discussion with airport and customs officials.
Additional memories included tours of the city, the beautiful Taiwan countryside, wonderful friendly people everywhere we went, an evening performance by our students and faculty members in a state-of-the-art concert facility in downtown Taipei, a marching performance in another major Taiwan city, Tainan, and many other cultural and touristy experiences.
Upon departure from Taipei, the group continued its journey with stops in Tokyo and other cities in Japan. Through my early contact with and help from Martha Doty ’75, daughter of former Baker President James Edward Doty, who was then employed by the Disney Corporation, the University was invited to open Tokyo Disneyland one morning with a marching performance that essentially opened the gates for all the Disney guests that day. An additional benefit for that performance was that all members of the Baker entourage were allowed free access to the park for that entire day, again through Martha’s wonderful work!
Another personal memory…not necessarily pleasant, was that I happened to get stuck along with wife, Patti, and several others from Baker in a boat ride inside of “It’s a Small World”. For over an hour we sat in the boat unmoving…but all the while, the music of that song continued to blare though speakers located in every corner of “the ride”. To this day, I can’t even think of hearing that song play!!! (and, do not call me and hum some of that song because I will find you!)
On the good side, and while in Japan, the group was treated to many other tours and cultural opportunities including a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony, a tour of the gorgeous countryside and pagodas of Kyoto and an evening performance of a Kabuki show. During a short break in the Kabuki show, former Baker Vice President for Admissions, Ken Snow, delivered a line that nearly cost me to fall backwards while laughing off the raised seating/riser area when he said that one of the Kabuki actors reminded him of a “certain unnamed Baker Alumna” of the class of 1919. (The fact that he was correct made the comment that much funnier!)
Following the days and nights in Japan the group started the long journey home, but with a wonderful stop to take in the sights and sounds of America’s 50th state…Hawaii. We stayed just off Waikiki but with easy walking access to the beach through the shopping bazaar.
With the exception of one student getting severely sunburned (I still worry about her to this day) and one student who thought it was a good idea to stay out all night and not report his whereabouts to anyone until he showed back up the next day, the trip to Hawaii was wonderful.
The most memorable part of the Hawaii stop was that after working with several levels of governmental/military agencies the Baker Band was invited and given the privilege to perform the National Anthem at the morning opening of the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. Every time I think back to that one moment brings great pride for our University, a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye. It is a moment that I will treasure and remember forever.
The picture that accompanies this blog is one I took on the beach at Waikiki of members of the choir dressed in performance attire. I wish I could locate other photos of student groups but to this point have not located the box in the basement in which they reside so I will need to post them separately in the future.
I encourage you to post memories of this or other university sponsored events, trips, interterms etc. of your own!