Oklahoma singer gains national attention in China, misses his cat

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Slater Rhea, a young but gray-haired University of Oklahoma graduate, is a singing sensation who entertains millions.

His devoted fans include grandmothers and giggly girls, but the Louisiana native barely gets noticed in the U.S., or when he visits the Norman campus, where he made his first performances at various Confucius Institute events.

The Oklahoman reports that the bright lights of stardom shine on Slater in Beijing, where his voice, his mastery of the Mandarin language and his ability to connect with his Chinese audience have turned a young man’s “farfetched dream” into reality.

His audience enjoys his grasp of folk music, as well as popular songs.

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The Chinese people call him a young George Clooney, because of his trendy hair color, and they consider him a cultural ambassador.

Slater, who is shy and soft spoken, said his hair, though fashionable, began turning silver in high school. At the request of his Chinese publicists, he doesn’t reveal his age.

He is goal-oriented and achieved the honor of Eagle Scout at age 13. Encouraged by his mother, he sang solo in his Catholic Church, and realized the reward of bringing joy to others. His talent is natural, and he has never had a formal singing lesson.

Slater, a National Merit Scholar originally from Louisiana, began his path to China when he researched the University of Oklahoma and discovered it was a great center for International Studies and programs.

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He immersed himself in his studies and has dual degrees from the University of Oklahoma in Asian Studies and Chinese, and recently received his master’s degree in International Studies from Johns Hopkins University.

There was a time when he interrupted his studies and returned home to spend time with his brother who had been diagnosed with brain cancer.

It was a time to think about his goals, as well as becoming closer to his brother, who is now healthy.

“I believe music pierces through differences,” Slater said, “and I always wanted to use my talent to make the world a better place.”

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He combines his entertainment career with his work as a full-time lecturer in English and International Studies at Beijing. He is also a volunteer in scouting programs.

While his career is flourishing, he misses his family and his cat, Hattie, a Cornish Rex.

Slater said he has television shows he performs on regularly, and had five national programs in September.

He said he is thrilled and grateful he is warmly welcomed in China. The one-time remote dream he was reluctant to share for fear of ridicule is a reality.

“I always had it in my heart to perform in China,” he said. “When I do something, I want to do it right.”


Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com