On snowy Saturday, kids channel China

Last Saturday afternoon, 7-year-old Deniz Yeroz colored her ox with green and yellow ears. Nearby, Diego Diuk, 3 1/2, stuck tape onto a yellow paper lantern and 4-year-old Edwin gabbed about his favorite types of music.

The three kids were just taking the afternoon to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

Children at the Neighborhood Music School craft lanterns at an event celebrating the Chinese New Year.
Murphy Temple
Children at the Neighborhood Music School craft lanterns at an event celebrating the Chinese New Year.

Although the actual holiday is not until Jan. 26, the Neighborhood Music School on Audubon Street celebrated a little early with an event Saturday, featuring arts and crafts, a calligraphy table, two performances of traditional Asian music and a potluck dinner. Beginning at 4 p.m., residents, Yale employees and those involved in programs at the music school began to filter in and out of the recital hall, which had been decorated with Chinese lanterns, dragons and fans. Around 60 people came to the second-annual event — the youngest a baby of 13 months, and the oldest an 82-year-old great-grandmother.

Phoebe Barron, event organizer and violin, viola and viola da gamba teacher at the school, said the purpose of the event was to bring together different generations in celebration of Asian culture.

“Because I have so many Asian students in my studio,” she said, “I thought it would be great for students to learn some of the songs from their own cultures.”

Grace Feldman, chair of the String Ensemble Department, explained that Barron was inspired to hold a New Year’s event after the music teacher observed the way her students’ grandparents would burst into song as their grandchildren played traditional Asian music.

Although Chinese fare such as dumplings and oranges attracted people to the food tables, attendee Steve Steinhardt said he decided to attend for a variety of reasons, including keeping his 2 1/2-year-old son, Wendo, occupied and exposing him to new things.

Gesturing to a nearby covered piano, Steinhardt added that Wendo already has an appreciation for music.

“If I uncovered this, he’d get onto the piano and start playing it,” he said.

Meanwhile, 6-year-old Ayca Yeroz, dressed in her sister’s sparkling red velvet dress, was keeping herself busy. She colored, made her own Chinese lantern and went to the calligraphy table, which she said was her favorite of all the activities offered.

Heidi Wang, whose two children both take lessons at the music school, had set up the calligraphy table and was transcribing the American names of attendants into Chinese characters.

But for many, including local Maria Diuk, the event was just something to do on a wintry Saturday afternoon.

“There are not too many things, in general, for kids to do in New Haven,” she explained.

Barron, who is working on a book of music transcribed from numerical Chinese notation into Western music notation, said she plans to host the event again next year.

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