When it comes to music education for kids, parents can be stuck between a rock and a hard place — don’t push and they miss out, or push too hard and put them off. The latter approach is on the increase at a time when there’s a lot of focus on the importance of extracurricular activities.
It’s not unusual to see an 8 year old being overloaded with violin and piano classes after school. And if we look closely at why parents encourage children to study music, the perceived benefits of music are probably given greater weight than children’s passion for it.
An Xiaonan: the core of education for kids is respect
Based on an interview our sister magazine Jingkids did with three musician parents in Beijing, we’re taking a closer look at the unique journey these musicians have taken in pursuit of their dreams, as well as their perspectives on music education for children.
An Xiaonan is the producer and guitarist for rock band Yinxu, which enjoys wide popularity in Beijing and beyond, and regularly performs at well-known live venues such as Dusk Dawn Club (DDC).
“I have been a big fan of music since I was a kid,” the thirty-something said, recollecting the starting point of his musical career. “I’ve been listening to many foreign bands such as Nirvana and Metallica since a young age, and I was very influenced by them.”
An formed a band with two friends during high school, which according to him, “was neither very supported nor prohibited by my parents.”
“My dad used to be keen on musical theater when he was young, but it gave way to his business career later. I understand my father’s choice, it would be difficult for him to support the family if he devoted himself to music,” said An.
Despite An’s obsession with music, his parents chose a finance-related major for him in a UK university, out of the consideration of better career prospects. But An transferred to music production after a one-year school suspension.
“I was in full knowledge that engaging in music wouldn’t be an easy road, but I can’t go against something I have true passion for.”
Having a five-year-old daughter, An says he would never try to steer whatever personal interest in music his daughter might develop in the future.
“I think the core of education for kids is ‘respect’. No one can predict the future. Being a parent doesn’t give us any credit to define what path our children should take in their future.”
“What I’m expecting from my child, is to find her own pursuits that she can follow into adulthood, or even for her lifetime.”
Gao Yufeng: Kids need more free space
Gao Yufeng is currently the bassist for the three-piece punk band Brain Failure.
It was a concert featuring Beyond, then the most popular Chinese rock band, along with other famous rock stars including Dou Wei and Zhang Chu, that inspired Gao so much that he describes it as his “musical enlightenment.”
Gao fell in love with rock’n’ roll at the concert, and found out that his real passion is the bass after learning electric guitar for a year.
“I think choosing an instrument is picking out a tool to express yourself with your own language, so it’s important to find out your own specific interest,” Gao said.
Gao’s wife is also engaged in music, and they share a philosophy of music education for kids: “Kids need more free space to develop their interests and to create.”
Leng Jie: All kids are born artists
Leng Jie, the former guitarist and lead singer for rock band Wanjian Xinwen, has been playing guitar for more than a decade.
“I got to know the guitar by chance when I was young, and became obsessed with it. It was a time with very limited access for us to rock music, and we basically listened to every type of music, if only we could get the tapes or CDs, which were good learning materials for us”, Leng Jie said.
Leng formed the rock band Wanjian Xinwen with several friends in the early 1990s and played at live venues and bars in Beijing.
“I sometimes played the music I made to my parents, and my mom even said she liked it!” Leng said smilingly, “but my dad never showed too much support.”
Running a bar and restaurant as his bread and butter, Leng never lets up on his passion for music: “Music is just something indispensable in my life.”
As to music education for kids, Leng has a special way — he regularly takes his 5-year-old son to shops with all different types of instruments.
“I won’t be forcing him to learn any instruments, but I want him to get to know how beautiful and amazing music is. I deeply believe that all kids are born artists. What matters to them is to find a passion that remains as they grow up.”
This article appeared on p52-53 of beijingkids June 2018 issue
Photos: Courtesy of An Xiaonan, Gao Yufeng, Leng Jie