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  • Randall Benton /

    Thomas Zhan, 9, prepares to tell a story in Chinese during Saturday's 13th annual children's performing arts showcase of the Elk Grove Chinese Association.

  • Randall Benton /

    Parent Eric Wong photographs his daughter Alissa as she plays the piano during the showcase, held at Elk Grove's Elliott Ranch Elementary School. The event was designed to build the children's confidence and reinforce lessons in Chinese culture.

Students merge culture with talent in annual Elk Grove showcase

Published: Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 4B
Last Modified: Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012 - 10:04 am

At 19, Kaylin Huang is a veteran of all 13 annual children's performing arts shows put on by the Elk Grove Chinese Association to showcase the talents and build the confidence of members' children.

"I don't remember when I wasn't doing this performance," said Huang, a UC Davis student studying environmental science and one of the four emcees for this year's show. "I did piano here for years."

The annual children's performing arts show, which took place Saturday afternoon in the multipurpose center at Elk Grove's Elliott Ranch Elementary School, is intended as more than family-friendly entertainment.

The 28 performers – young pianists and violinists, singers and dancers, ranging in age from 3 to 15 – don't really know it, but in a season spangled with holiday-themed recitals and chorales, their arts program helps them maintain their cultural traditions and language.

"They learn Chinese in Saturday school, but they never talk Chinese," said one of the show's organizers, Jane Liang. "Through singing, they can keep our language and traditions."

So here were the Baby Princesses – Delilah Huai, Chelsea Hee, Alice Hu and Levina Wong, all 3 years old, dressed in matching red velvet dresses – singing a traditional Chinese children's song while the audience smiled at them.

"I really love to see them perform," said Serina Kong, mother of Levina as well as musician Alissa Wong, 8. "It gets to me."

Here was 7-year-old Jason Huang, Kaylin's little brother, belting out a song in Mandarin, and here was 9-year-old Sophie Zhang, who also plays for the Sacramento Youth Symphony, performing on piano and violin.

With more than 140 families in the association, the group was formed in 1997 as a way for recent immigrants from China to maintain friendships with one another and pass their culture along to their children.

Musical performances at the arts show included classical music as well as traditional Chinese pieces.

"I'm really proud of all the kids," said Laiping Ng, Kaylin and Jason Huang's mother, who works as an electrical engineer for the state.

"For them, this is a big family. I've watched them grow up."

And here was Alissa Wong on stage in the spotlight, seated at the piano to play "Fur Elise" while her father, Eric Wong, roamed the audience, taking photos of her.

"When you have a child, she's your life," said Wong, who works as Jesuit High School's webmaster. "She represents you in the world.

"It means a lot to me to see her on stage like this."

Another of the emcees – 15-year-old Grant Huang, no relation to Jason and Kaylin – said he appreciated the importance of learning the language and traditions.

"Maybe not necessarily the singing," he said. "It's important to understand the concept of responsibility and learn how to speak in front of other people.

"But I usually listen to pop rock, nothing like this stuff."

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