17 Mar, 2017
10 : 00
The Yew Chung International School of Beijing hosted its IGCSE and IBDP Music and Drama Celebration on Wednesday. The performances were an opportunity for our students studying advanced music to showcase the compositions they’ve created over the course of their studies this year for the entire YCIS Beijing campus.
These compositions, arrangements, dramatic performances, and instrumental solos were performed entirely by our talented students as well. Lianne Yu, YCIS Beijing’s Head of Music, detailed the unique changes made to this year’s performance and how the school supports its students looking to pursue instrumental and musical learning at an IGCSE and IB level.
What is different in this year’s performance compared from last year?
This recital partners with what we do in IGCSE and IB music and drama, in which students need to give a real performance in front of an audience. This can be in the form of a smaller more intimate performance or a larger schoolwide performance, as long as it is live and recorded.
For this particular performance, we changed the seating layout so that the audience was distributed among the various performing acts, e.g. the orchestra on the stage, the band in the middle of the audience, piano off to one side, etc. We chose this seating arrangement to encourage a bit more engagement amongst the kids. We also wanted to make the acts feel more centralized among the audience to encourage a greater sense of community, a very important aspect of YCIS Beijing! Another perk was that there was less dead time logistically during the performance, as they could happen one after another without having to wait for change of setup.
We also had students lead a question and answer section between every performance. These questions focused on the aesthetics of the experience, what the audience thought, and allowed the audience to listen a bit more attentively. We hoped that this would be a valuable experience for the students as a deeper music education exercise in addition to an opportunity listen to nice music.
What pieces were performed and how were these pieces chosen?
If the students didn’t play the instruments for which they wrote the music, then other students would play it, e.g. students in the orchestra played compositions created by their peers. For instance, our string quartet performed a student composition. Other pieces, even if they weren’t originally composed, were at least arranged by the students, including the background music for many of the vocal performances. The drama students also created their own group theater piece. We tried to make creativity a focal point of the entire show.
What benefits did this bring to the student composers and performers?
It gave them a practical outlet for their own creations in a more intimate setting. Students perform a lot at YCIS Beijing, so this change of pace helped to stimulate their growth. More generally, because students must take an artistic course in IGCSE, whether its art, music, drama, or ICT, students are enabled to explore areas in which their strengths lie and express their creativity. In terms of the instrumental programme, using different parts of your body to create sound engages different parts of your brain, developing and stimulating thinking in other subjects.
What resources does YCIS Beijing offer students looking to pursue higher learning in music or specific instruments?
At YCIS Beijing we offer IGCSE and IB music, with both programmes attended fully each year. In terms of instrument selection, students can choose any instrument they want to specialize in. We also offer the In-school Individual Instrumental Programme (IIIP), where students can have one-on-one classes with tutors of their instrumental choice. In terms of group instrumental activities, we offer orchestra, jazz band, and musicals. These activities are all available to support students studying higher musical education.
How does IGCSE/IB instrument testing work? How are students who choose to pursue their instruments at this level evaluated?
For both IGCSE and IB there are three testing components. IGCSE testing is made up of composing, performing, and listening. Composing and performing would be what we heard at the recital, where students perform music that they’ve composed, which I mark and then send off to Cambridge. Listening involves sitting a listening test to appreciate where music comes from, the instruments used, and the sounds heard, then writing about all of that in meaningful ways. It is about developing students as well-rounded musicians as opposed to just a performer or instrumentalist.
In IB, the categories are the same, except the listening section is more open-ended. The listening performance is more open ended and they write a full essay on what they’ve heard. Everything that we do to prepare them for this is very practical; they’ll never have to sit and write anything that doesn’t involve listening to music and pieces and writing about what they hear, appreciating music in a contextual way.
What are some important traits that students looking to perform music at a high level should possess?
Dedication to practice! Practicing for a piece is the largest time commitment; you’re never really finished as there’s always something you can do better. Additionally, sometimes you don’t see results right away, so it takes a lot of patience. Musicians also need to overcome any fears of failure or making mistakes and find the courage to get up and perform in front of their peers, to get up and showcase themselves. Be ok to tackle this challenge and possibly make mistakes in front of others. That’s what being a performer is all about!