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Summer Session China

JazzDanmark’s traditional jazz rally Summer Session have launched a Chinese edition in Beijing. Supported by S.C. Van Foundation and Knud Højgaard Foundation.

2019 - now

Back in 2018, JazzDenmark's Chinese partners, in collaboration with a Danish faculty, organized the first small version of Summer Session Beijing – a sister edition of the traditional Danish music event for professional jazz musicians. In light of a reopened China and with support from the S.C. Van Foundation and Knud Højgaard Foundation, JazzDenmark can now announce Summer Session in China. This time on a larger scale and with the opportunity for Danish musicians to participate. The event changes its name from Summer Session Beijing to Summer Session China and relocates from the city to the idyllic setting of the Anaya holiday paradise.



The primary purpose of Summer Session China is to promote the idea of lifelong learning and the notion that, despite being considered a master, one can always continue to develop. The Danish jazz scene stands out by bringing together musicians from different cultures, backgrounds, levels, and genres to play each other's compositions, improvise together, draw inspiration, and continue to evolve regardless of experience.

Secondarily, the project aims to promote the Danish folk high school movement, focusing on Grundtvig's ideas about popular enlightenment and the academic community. Denmark and China have a long tradition of strong cultural connections, and the Danish folk high school tradition, which emphasizes voluntary engagement and community without exams, is of great interest to the Chinese people. This open learning platform contrasts with the typical Chinese professionalized education system and provides favorable conditions for working with improvisational music. There have been Chinese participants in the Danish summer session before, and the idea of an annual exchange program with students in both directions seems feasible and can be further explored after this year's summer session.

Additionally, the central values of the Summer Session, such as networking, the intersection of different musical languages and cultures, and the improvement of individual musicians, are also emphasized.


For the past 40 years, Summer Session has been bridging generations and borders. International top names are invited to Denmark and collaborate with Danish professional musicians over a week. The goal is to create new international networks, inspire across cultural and musical origins, and continue to secure Danish jazz's position on the global stage. In 2018, the ripples reached China, where Summer Session China came into existence for the first time.

Summer Session China naturally extends from the longstanding cultural exchange between China and Denmark. The country has been a focal point for JazzDenmark for a decade, making it fitting for Summer Session, one of the organization's oldest projects, to come to fruition in China. The project is facilitated by JazzDenmark in collaboration with the internationally recognized DJ and jazz editor at Radio Beijing, Zhang Youdai, who himself visited the Summer Session to gather inspiration. Zhang Youdai has a long-standing relationship with Danish jazz, where he has presented Danish musicians at his club in Beijing, Cloud 9, and has attended the Copenhagen Jazz Festival almost annually since the early 2000s.

Zhang Youdai and JazzDenmark have collaborated on multiple projects over the last 10 years, including a Chinese translation of the songbook "De Små Synger," an album project with Chinese versions of Sebastian's songs, and a jazz album featuring Danish interpretations of Chinese folk songs, as well as numerous tours with Danish musicians.

In 2018, a faculty of Danish educators, including jazz musicians Kasper Tranberg, Mette Lindberg, Anders AC Christensen, and Mikkel Hess, traveled to Beijing to teach around 25 registered Chinese musicians. Networking, new musical encounters, and cultural exchange formed the basis for a week where both instructors and students returned home enriched culturally.

Danish Participation

The faculty for Summer Session China will consist of 4-5 Danish professional musicians connected to the Danish jazz scene. JazzDenmark aims to select a faculty that illustrates the diversity that makes up the Danish jazz scene, spanning age, gender, and genres. Moreover, consideration is given to faculty members with prior experience in playing music in China.


Faculty 2023

Nikolaj Hess - Pianist, composer, and co-organizer of Summer Session*

Anders AC Christensen - Bassist and co-organizer of Summer Session*

Kasper Tranberg - Trumpeter

Cornelia Nilsson (SWE) - Drummer

Ned Ferm (US) - Saxophonist

* Nikolaj Hess, Mikkel Hess, and Anders AC constitute the artistic leadership of the Danish Summer Session and were instructors at Summer Session China 2018.


The artistic leadership curates a faculty of professionals from, or with connection to, the Danish jazz scene. The composition consists of 2-3 Danish instructors and 1 international instructor.


Danish Students

There are 4 spots available for young Danish jazz musicians who are eager to collaborate with Chinese musicians under Danish instruction. These talents are individuals interested in the Chinese music market and possess a level of proficiency that allows them to keep up.

The purpose is to provide favorable conditions for aspiring musicians interested in the Chinese music market. By exposing them at a young age to established Chinese jazz musicians and industry professionals, they will be better equipped when pursuing their own careers in the Chinese scene.

Furthermore, the participation of Danish musicians will strengthen the narrative of the thriving Danish jazz culture for the Chinese participants.

Project management

Summer Session China is coordinated and initiated by Zhang Youdai in collaboration with JazzDenmark and REN Productions.

The recruitment of Chinese students, participant fees, facilitation, and execution are managed by the local project group, led by Youdai and his team. This arrangement is practical due to geography, language, and existing networks, and also because Zhang Youdai, as an ambassador for the project, automatically legitimizes Summer Session China through his reputation within the Chinese jazz community. This approach ensures a high level of artistic quality among participants.


For the execution of Summer Session China 2023, the Danish project management will also be present. This includes JazzDenmark's project managers for the Danish Summer Session and the project managers for the organization's other China projects, as well as the consultant for Danish Music in China, Martin Røen.


Through JazzDenmark's longstanding work with Danish music in China, the organization has cultivated an invaluable network that can be leveraged for this project. Particularly, Youdai's position as the voice of the entire jazz community and JazzDenmark's strong collaboration with the Danish Cultural Center in Beijing, the Royal Danish Consulate General in Shanghai, and the Danish Embassy in Beijing allow the project to make a press effort resonating in both the specialized music community and the cultural policy circles.

In addition to a week of cultural exchange, improvisation, and jazz, the week will culminate in faculty concerts at the Blue Note Beijing and Blue Note Shanghai clubs. Key stakeholders, relevant industry professionals, government officials, commercial partners, and the press will be specially invited to this concert featuring some of Denmark's finest jazz musicians.

Zhang Youdai was one of the first radio hosts to open the doors to Western music in the early 1990s. Since then, he has curated numerous radio programs and magazines. For over 20 years, he has been the host and editor of a daily jazz program on Beijing's largest music radio, Beijing Music Radio. This provides an opportunity for the project to create a special segment about Summer Session China, featuring visits from the Danish faculty and some of the students.

In Denmark as well, the project has favorable conditions for reaching the press. JazzDenmark has strong connections to both major media outlets in the country and more specialized journalism.


Funds are allocated for professional documentation of the high school program, resulting in video material for reporting and promotion.

Collaborative Partners

JazzDenmark collaborates on Summer Session China 2023 with REN Productions, Blue Note Beijing, Blue Note China, Apple Music China, and Zhang Youdai. Summer Session China is supported by the Knud Højgaard Foundation and the S.C. Van Foundation.

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