East Meets West: Our Global Music Programme
Formerly a music teacher at YCIS Beijing and now a Senior Fellow at CHERI, Ms Anne Dwyer works with Yew Chung and Yew Wah schools to advance the quality education of our students. As part of this, she devotes much of her time to curriculum matters – most recently, working with music educators to develop the Yew Wah music curriculum. We speak to Anne about how we incorporate Chinese and Western music into our curriculum.
Please introduce the Yew Chung International School music programme
Music plays an important role as a core component of YCIS learning programmes. Beyond the classroom music programme, we have a Junior Strings (violin) programme which allows all students in Years 1, 2 and 3 to learn the violin. A range of music-related opportunities are offered via the Co-Curricular Activities programme, and the various music ensembles that are run in our schools. The combination of these programmes provides students with a range of opportunities to develop an appreciation of music, along with performance skills. Creativity is also valued, and the opportunity to create compositions is embedded into the music classroom curriculum.
In what ways is Chinese music and culture incorporated into the curriculum?
China has an extraordinarily rich and diverse culture, and this is reflected in its music. Deepening students’ understanding and respect for different cultures is an important part of learning in a Yew Chung school, and the music classroom allows students to sing songs, and play instruments that deepen this understanding. Without a doubt, one of the highlights of my time at YCIS Beijing involved the Year 3 Learning Community learning and performing traditional Chinese drumming patterns on Chinese drums. 11 drumming patterns were learnt by the students, and they managed to play the patterns from memory during an end of year concert. The performance was a testament to what students can achieve, especially when they are involved in presenting something that is relevant and challenging. I have just shared a recording of one of the YCIS Beijing Year 3 performances with our Yew Wah music colleagues, and it was agreed that this opportunity has value for all students and is a way to build a love of Chinese musical culture across our organization.
What are the benefits of including both Chinese and Western music in our curriculum?
We now live in a time where it is possible to access and appreciate music from all over the world. Indeed, music elements from Chinese music and Western music can be fused in different music genres, including film music. For example, the sound track to Kung Fu Panda includes traditional Chinese instruments and Western orchestral instruments. Pentatonic melodic lines – often associated with Asian cultures – are merged with Western harmonies. I think that including both Chinese and Western music in our curriculum allows students to appreciate the beauty of music, along with its ability to become a universal language.
What makes our music curriculum so successful?
The provision of the Junior Strings (violin), classroom music and ensemble programmes in our YCIS schools is one of the reasons that music is an important and successful part of student learning. Students are provided with multiple opportunities to perform and concerts constantly feature the learning that has occurred. Additional opportunities to share the love associated with music-making are offered through the annual Seeds of Hope music concert. At YCIS, the quest for excellence is evident in the music programmes. Excellence in music is not viewed as being elitist. We believe that setting meaningful learning programmes involves extending our students, and we know the pleasure they gain when they achieve excellence in what they do. We want to provide such opportunities to our students.