OGDEN -- Amy Elmer isn't too worried about the first airplane flight of her life, even though it will last a whopping 15 hours.
The Weber State University music education student, whose previous longest trip was to Washington state, isn't concerned about the food she will eat in China. She likes sushi, and she's moderately skilled with chopsticks.
And Elmer won't get lonely, traveling with three dozen or so fellow musicians in the WSU Chamber Orchestra, which leaves for Beijing at 6 a.m. Sunday but, due to time-zone differences, arrives Monday afternoon.
No, what worries Elmer is the well-being of her cello, which will make the 6,000-mile trip in the plane's belly with other baggage and cargo.
"I'm worried about my cello getting lost or bumped or broken or too cold," said Elmer, 21 of Pleasant View. "It should be OK in the new case Dr. Palumbo bought. But that's what worries me."
Michael Palumbo, WSU department chair and professor of music, is taking a student musical group to China for the third time since 1999, when he was first invited by the visiting president of Shanghai Normal University, Yang Deguang.
"They brought him on a campus tour, and they brought him to our building," Palumbo recalled. "He stuck his head into an orchestra rehearsal and a few months later I got an invitation to do a concert at Shanghai Normal University."
The travel group will consist of 37 faculty members, student musicians and spouses. Faculty soloists will include Yu-Jane Yang, piano; Shi-Hwa Wang, violin; and Viktor Uzur, cello.
For the flights, most musicians put their instruments in overhead compartments, but a few larger instruments will travel as baggage and a few really big instruments will be borrowed in China.
Weber State musicians will perform concerts at Beijing Contemporary Music Academy, Tianjin University of Sport, and Shanghai Ocean University. Much of the musicians' nine-day trip will be spent as tourists, being shown the sites by university hosts.
Elmer can't wait.
"I'm excited to see all the big tourist attractions," she said. "I'm also excited to just see a big city and how it functions. And I'm excited about shopping in Shanghai, where I am told I can buy anything I want -- like clothes, silk and pearls -- cheaper."
Those going had a year to plan and save, Palumbo said. The cost of the trip is $2,015 per person, which goes for flights, transportation in China, hotels, meals and sight-seeing. After monetary donations by the university, those going will pay $1,265 each. But that's still a chunk of change for the average student.
"I've been aware of needing to pay for it, and have been more careful than normal with my money," Elmer said. "I already have a couple of jobs, so I was more careful with what I earned."
Palumbo said music students at Chinese universities he has visited are different from orchestra musicians at Weber State.
"The schools in China cater only to those students who have a very high ability as musicians," he said. "It's not the case that anyone who wants to can get involved and perform. They weed out students to get only the best performers.
"A lot of the performers in my orchestra are not music majors or minors. They just like to play. It's a different musical culture for our students to see, and the Chinese students get to see our students, who are regular college students who just love music and want to enjoy themselves. It's a good learning experience for both sides. And I have to say, my orchestra is pretty good. It holds its own quite well against the Chinese students."
For students like Elmer, hoping to teach music in the United States, and for other orchestra students who plan to follow other career paths, the trip to China is a rare opportunity, Palumbo said.
"It's the chance of a lifetime to go with so many of my friends," she said. "I've been with the orchestra four years, so I'm going to China with a big group of good friends."
Elmer said she plans to stay with her group, "so I don't get lost." She bought a water bottle with a filter, "so I don't get sick."
Her only other worry?
"I'm pretty good with chopsticks, but I may have to hide a fork in my purse."