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The Bridge (Modesto) collaborating with Chhip Chhoun (Modesto) with fiscal sponsor Sierra Vista Child & Family Services

Award: $40,000 Traditional Arts Grant awarded in 2011

Culminating event: spring 2014

Chhip Chhoun and his group of Khmer musicians collaborated with The Bridge to present biweekly, free performances at The Bridge Community Center. The instruments used included the khhem, which is similar to a zither; the skor, or drum; the takei, which is a large, long, stringed instrument; and the tror, known as the Cambodian violin.

At the performances,  seating immediately around the musicians was reserved for youth and other community musicians who were interested in learning to play the traditional music and songs. This approach mimiced the traditional method of transmission in which musicians play and those who hope to learn watch, listen, and then eventually play along. Original melodies developed through group playing will be performed at the annual Bridge Cultural Fair and other community celebrations. A culminating fair of Southeast Asian dance and music was held in June 2014.

Chhip Chhoun learned to play traditional Khmer instruments, melodies, and music as a young man in Cambodia. He has been playing traditional Cambodian music for some 50 years. He both plays the four common instruments and knows how to craft them. A team from the Bridge Youth Council filmed the performances and crafting of the instruments to document the traditional music and playing.

The Bridge Community Center was formed in 1989 by faculty and students from California State University, Stanislaus, and Modesto Junior College, and by community volunteers as an effort to help meet the needs of Southeast Asian refugees relocating to the Central Valley following the Vietnam War and the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia.