Tony Webb from the United Kingdom established the music education center Toning Drum Percussion in Beijing in 2003.
Starting by introducing African djembe drums played with bare hands as a form of interactive team building, Webb’s company has been transformed into a training center offering hand percussion training to adults who want to popularize music among children.
Hand drumming, according to Webb, offers the player the chance to release pressure, make new friends－and most importantly, make music－all at the same time.
“Everyone plays together like one big orchestra,” the 63-year-old says. “You don’t have to have any sense of rhythm. It just takes a little practice and confidence, and it will be fun.”
When he started the company more than 10 years ago, Webb says the Chinese music education market was limited.
“The Majority of schools, even today, have little or no arts program. But this is changing slowly,” says Webb. “The Chinese government has announced that all middle and high schools should have arts program, including music. That’s a good sign for improving the music training environment in the country.”
Unlike early childhood music education in the West, which enables kids to enjoy music and widen their vision, many Chinese parents ask their children to learn music for certain purposes, either hoping they will be professional musicians in the future or obtaining extra points for applying to schools.
But with more and more Western music education organizations introducing their methods over the past few years, Chinese parents gradually to change their views on music education.
Hao Dakun, a 39-year-old father, has taken her 9-year-old daughter Hao Tianyue to jazz drum courses for three years.
“When I learned music, my parents wanted me to take it as a lifelong career,” says Hao, who started learning trumpet in childhood and later taught himself guitar.
“The practice was very boring. But now some parents just want their children to have a fun experience with music,” he says.
Today he is a guitar and jazz drum teacher at the Deshengmen Youth Palace in Xicheng district, a government-supported community school in Beijing.
A growing market
When the jazz drum course was started at the school in 2012, only eight children applied for the class. Today he has more than 40 students.
“The music training is not only about playing music. At the end of each semester, we have shows produced by students. By being in charge of multiple aspects of the production, they learn to take responsibility,” Hao says.
Some homegrown music training organizations are also eyeing the growing market in the country.
A newly founded music training organization in Beijing called Guitar China Mogu Education aims to offer contemporary music classes and focus on the holistic development of young children through music.
“Besides piano, violin and guzheng (traditional Chinese zither), parents started to let their children study contemporary music instruments such as guitar, bass and drums. The classes are entertaining and empowering,” says Jiang Wei, the founder of the school.
He also invites musicians who learned to play instruments at a young age to give weekly lectures and opened the stage to anyone with the desire to foster their children’s musical interests.
As the founder of Guitar China, an independent organization started by Jiang more than a decade ago, he has been promoting local indie rock music and introducing Western indie rock acts to China.
He has worked with Chinese music education centers to train child rockers for several years. Young rock bands such as Happy Fire and 20088 have been winners at various galas across the country.
“Kids can be creative when learning modern music. Unlike classical music, they can produce their own sounds without any limitations,” says Li Hongyu, one of Jiang’s colleagues, who founded 9-Beats Modern Percussion Music School in 2003 and established the band 20088 in 2006.
“We don’t expect the children to be professional rockers when they grow up. They have their own dreams. We just want them to be happy with music. That’s all.”
By Qian Ruisha, www.ecns.cn, www.msidallas.com