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Dessa forms connections with audience in Chengdu

“It is very much weeks like these that are most exciting to me as a musician and a person.”

So said Dessa during the Q&A session after her evening lecture and performance at Yanjiyou Bookstore in downtown Chengdu on May 23.


Dessa, Matthew Santos, and Aby Wolf pose with the audience after their performance and lecture at Yanjiyou Bookstore on May 23. The group spent more than an hour talking with their new fans. Photo by Yu Pei, courtesy of Matthew Santos.

Musicians’ tours often follow a pattern: concert, sleep, then move on to the next venue, whether that’s in another city, another state, or even another country.

Arts Midwest Global Exchanges are different. By spending multiple days in each city they visit, the Dessa in China group is able to slow down and take time to get to know a place—and its people.

The night’s performance concluded around 8 p.m., but Dessa, Aby Wolf, and Matthew Santos spent more than an hour after the event talking to attendees—including a group of high school girls who crowded around Dessa and spoke with her about everything from school to boys to gender roles in China and the United States. Their conversation ended only when the bookstore began to close.


Dessa, Matthew Santos, and Aby Wolf perform at Yanjiyou Bookstore. Photo by Stephen Manuszak.

It is precisely these moments of connection, of conversation between people, and of forming friendships that Dessa was referencing when she called this week exciting. In particular, she said, it is “the small ones, between two people” that she finds most meaningful.

Dessa’s tour has been filled with such small moments. Last Wednesday, the result of those interactions could be seen not only in Dessa, but in the many people who surrounded her, asking her questions and posing for pictures.

Joy. Curiosity. Friendship. All these and more were evident on the faces of everyone present. Given that, it’s no wonder that Dessa called this week exciting.