"Love and Music" brings love everywhere, photo courtesy of LAA
Last spring, two middle school students – Zhang You (18) and An Zhiqi (15) – from the Beijing No. 4 Middle School and BCIS, set out on a research trip in Qinghai along with members of the “Angels Team” from the Little Angels Action Fund – a youth charity group founded by the China Youth Development Foundation. One day, during a visit to a school in Qinghai they passed a music classroom and were shocked to see it filled with over 20 dusty, unused electronic organs. Later, they found out there were actually nobody in the school, not even the teachers, who could actually play the donated instruments – they were clearly going to waste. Other schools in the area didn’t even have a single instrument, much less students who could sing the national anthem.
After the trip, the students came up with an idea: Help the school start its own music education program, an idea that was soon embraced by other group members and local experts. And thus on April 24, 2010, The Little Angels Action Fund (LAA) and the National Centre for the Performing Arts joined together to kick off the “Love and Music” project with its first “Love and Music Charity Concert.”
The Little Angels Action Fund aims to assist with teenagers’ personal development and growth by encouraging them to do volunteer work and organize charity drives. The “Love and Music” project was founded on these principles to raise funds for improving the music education environment for underprivileged students by helping them purchase instruments and training musical teachers for poor schools. In so doing, the aim is also to help discover neglected musical talents by offering underprivileged students resources and opportunities to perform.
The “Love and Music” program is working to raise public awareness of the charity and encourage more people to care about teenagers’ personal and social development through two current projects: promoting musical education in Qinghai and giving migrant students in Beijing piano training.
On August 22, the second-annual “Love and Music Charity Concert” will be held at Beijing Concert Hall as a part of the first Beijing International Summer Piano and Violin Festival. Students from Beijing City International School and faculty members from six top musical universities in the US will be performing piano, violin and choral pieces alongside students from migrant worker families. 11-year-old Yu Qian (one of the performers interviewed below) will be playing Frederic Chopin’s ‘Nocturnes’ and ‘Siji Diao,’ a piano piece from China (四季调), together with a violin professor from Oberlin Conservatory in the US. With support from the Dale Carnegie Training Beijing Office, all income from the tickets will go to “Love and Music” project to help musical education in Qinghai and fund piano lessons for Beijing migrant students.
Beijingkids recently sat down with the principal performers – Yu Qian (Age 11, from Si Chuan), Ren Xinhao (Age 9, from Liaoning) and Han Zhiqing (Age 9, from Sha’anxi) – as they were preparing for the concert to discuss their own stories, why they became interested in music and what this charity means to them:
BeijingKids: How did you first discover you (your kid) wanted to play music? Was it an instant attraction or did you (she) gradually develop an interest?
RX: I watched a lot of TV when I was younger, when I saw others playing piano on the TV, I really wanted to learn it as well.
YQ: I’m almost the same – I really liked dancing and singing when I was little.
Yu Quanyang (Yu Quan’s father): Maybe it was related to the prenatal education. When her mother was pregnant, I bought a stereo and played music everyday.
Ren Haiying (Ren Xinhao’s mother): She started to like music when she was little, when I was playing tapes, she would dance with it, too.
BeijingKids: How far would you like to go with your musical career? What is your ultimate dream?
RX: I actually never thought that much, but I really want to be a musician.
YQ: Sure I will play the piano all the time. I really want to be a musician.
HZ: I want to be a pianist.
BeijingKids: Who are your heroes – musical or otherwise?
RX: Mozart, because what he wrote are pleasant to hear, better than anybody else’s.
YQ: Beethoven. Because I heard about his story, he could even write the Ninth Symphony after he went deaf. He’s great!
HZ: Pan Gu or Hou Yi (characters from ancient Chinese stories who separate the sky and ground and shoot the other 9 suns). I read about them in the story books, they sacrificed their own lives for humanity, they are heroes!
BeijingKids: Do you feel you have changed since you started learning piano? How?
RX: I didn’t have any confidence before, now I am more and more confident.
YQ: I didn’t have confidence before, now I am confident as well. If I had to perform on the stage before, I would be really nervous, now I am very natural and brave.
HZ: I was really shy and now I’m not afraid when I’m on stage.
BeijingKids: To the parents, when your kids were first selected, what were your feelings?
RH: I was really excited. Her classmates envied her. Many kids had this dream, but not everyone has the opportunity. She really likes to express herself, especially with instruments.
YQ: We were very surprised when Yu Qian was selected to this program – she was really sensitive to music.
Yan Shaohua (Han Zhiqing’s mother): I was very happy, we had never learned piano before, our kid had never seen a piano, but she was looking forward to it. I also told her it’s hard to get this opportunity.
BeijingKids: And how do feel about their music playing now?
RH: Really, really big improvements, especially with the basic fundamentals. Their piano teachers taught them hand by hand until they can handle it by themselves. There was a period of time when she felt it was so difficult. But now she knows the routine, so she practices by herself. I feel she’s improved in whatever way, even more confident now. I like the feelings music has given her.
YQ: I feel Yu Qian’s improved really fast. At the first year, she couldn’t understand the music score, now she gets her own method. On one hand, she works hard for herself, on the other she has gained confidence from the performance.
BeijingKids: To the students, can you describe how you have been rehearsing for concert? What has been the biggest challenge?
YQ: We take it really seriously and work really hard. We go to classes much more often than usual. Teachers will let us warm up by ourselves and teach us later. When we don’t get it, our teachers are always very patient. They are not difficult for me at all. Some days, I can even practice for five hours a day and I plan my schedule by myself. My hands get sour sometimes and I will be worried. My parents get mad at me if I spend too much time on it.
HZ: What I am practicing is not difficult for me. I play piano four hours everyday but I can also relax for a long time too.
RX: There are no difficulties! I can do four hours everyday without anybody pushing me!
BeijingKids: Other than music what other interests or hobbies do you have?
Yu Qian: Does reading count? I like reading composition books, too. And of course, I like singing and dancing.
Ren Xinhao: Aside from piano, I also like oral poetry recitation.
Han Zhiqing: I like singing.
BeijingKids: What are your favorite subjects in school?
RX: English, I’m best at English!
YQ: Chinese, I’m really good at Chinese in schoo!
HZ: Math for me.
BeijingKids: What are your general impressions of Beijing?
YQ: Beijing is very developed, but there are places with very bad pollutions, like the little dirty river opposite of my school, it was clean years ago.
RX: I like Beijing. Beijing’s weather is good, and the city is very developed.
HZ: Beijing is nicer than my hometown, a lot of places to see.
BeijingKids: What would you tell other students in your position based on what you’ve learned and experienced so far?
YQ: There is only hope when you take it seriously.
RX: As long as you work hard, you can make it to success.
HZ: Stick to things no matter what you are doing.
The Love and Music Charity Concert will be performed in Beijing at Beijing Concert Hall from 7.30pm to 9pm on Aug 22. Tickets are RMB 380/580 and all income from tickets sales will be donated to the Love and Charity project. Check out http://www.laafund.org/ (Chinese) or call 6771 9772 and e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how to reserve tickets.