For Yalungerile, being a conductor of either a symphony orchestra or a choir is a job about musical directorship. She has the power to make decisions about the ensemble under her baton, its schedule and, most importantly, how to communicate with an audience through music.
She has lots of experience to draw on, such as founding the Inner Mongolia Youth Chorus in 1987 for young adults and being its conductor for 15 years, as well as conducting concerts featuring the choruses of the China National Symphony Orchestra and the Shanghai Opera House Chorus.
However, when she was invited to become conductor and artistic director of Inner Mongolia Early Youth Choir in 2008, the veteran was hesitant, because she knew that it would be very difficult and go beyond anything she had done before.
The choir, the first of its kind from the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, aims to train singers around 10 years old to sing a cappella－with no conductor or accompaniment. The first thing Yalungerile needed to do was to travel around the region to recruit choir members.
"We looked for children with musical talent and the eagerness to learn to sing. However, things didn't go smoothly when we started," recalls the 55-year-old.
To encourage children to study music, she traveled to remote areas of the region, going door-to-door, visiting families and persuading the parents to let their children receive musical education.
"Though there were no school fees, many parents still couldn't understand what we were doing, so we had to explain to them over and over again," she says.
Despite the initial hardships, she succeeded in her endeavor and her first classroom, with about 50 students that were all from herder families, finally convened in September 2008.
Half of the school hours were taken up by middle school courses like mathematics, Chinese language, science and history, while the rest of the time was dedicated to professional music training, such as musical theory, solfeggio and learning the piano, which was a requirement for all students. The training of traditional Mongolian ethnic musical art forms and instruments was also provided, such as morin khuur (horse-headed fiddle), khoomei (a throat-singing technique) and urtiin duu (also known as "long song").
"It's a pity that some students quit for various reasons, such as the pressure from their families over financial problems or health issues, but we didn't want to give up. Since graduation, most of the students have been enrolled to study in universities. I am proud that 90 percent of them have continued their musical studies," says Yalungerile.
Supported by the local government and working with Inner Mongolia Arts University, the choir recruits students every three years and is headquartered in Hohhot, the region's capital.
She adds that, despite all the hardships of keeping the children choir going, she finds great joy being with them.
"Though these children have no background in musical education, they love to sing," she says. "It's really beautiful when you start to learn a song, focus on every detail to make it sound perfect and finally make it happen onstage."
During summer vacations, the conductor usually takes the students to perform and take part in music competitions around the world.
Unfortunately, one of their shows, which was supposed to be staged at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing on Aug 12, was canceled due to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
"These kinds of public performances make the children confident and appreciate their own culture. They also share a bond with the people listening. It also helps to build up a high reputation for the choir, which attracts more children to join," she says, adding that the songs the choir performs are mostly Mongolian folk songs, such as Beautiful Grassland My Home, Father's Grassland and Mother's River, Four Seas and The Hanggal Concerto.
In 2012, the choir won the top prize at the China International Chorus Festival, propelling it to overnight fame. In 2013, it achieved gold medals in the mixed chorus and folk music categories at the European Choir Games, which was held in Graz, Austria.
One of the biggest reasons why Yalungerile is so devoted to the choir is that she wants children to benefit from learning music, just as she did.
Born and raised in Zalantun, Hulunbuir city in Inner Mongolia, Yalungerile loved to sing and dance as a child. Her hobby was noticed and supported by her parents.
At 12, she was admitted to the Inner Mongolia Arts School and worked as a member of Ulan Muqir upon graduation. Translated as "red bud troupe", Ulan Muqir is the Mongolian name for troupes that travel from one site to another, performing for herdsmen who live in some of China's most remote areas.
At 16, she was enrolled to study conducting at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in 1981. As the only girl in the class, Yalungerile recalls that she had to work extra hard to keep up with other students. In 1995, she furthered her study as a conductor at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, trained by conductors Yan Liangkun (1923-2017) and Wu Lingfen, now the director of China NCPA Chorus.
Yan once called Yalungerile "a sculptor of vocal music".
Wu speaks highly of Yalungerile's devotion in popularizing Mongolian folk music with her efforts to train child singers.
Now, teaching as a professor at the conducting department of China Conservatory of Music, Yalungerile travels between Beijing and Hohhot often.