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Our spotlight series explores the musical stories and experiences that first bring people to music and what it is that inspires a lifelong love of music and the drive to share that through teaching music to others.
UK Conductor Tori Longdon has been involved in establishing and supporting new Music Education Programmes for Shenzhen. Here she and her colleague Ben share their experiences of rolling out the Kodaly-based curriculum that Tori has developed to children in China.
Zoltan Kodaly said that the best way for young people to learn about music is through the folk music of their own country. This was our starting point for developing a new syllabus of music education for the Alpha Choral Courses in Shenzhen. An enormous body of Chinese traditional music uses the pentatonic scale, which makes it the perfect partner for using with the Kodaly method of music education.
Just over the border from Hong Kong lies the city of Shenzhen, a Special Economic Zone and tech metropolis, and the home of more than 16 million people. It is here that Alpha Choral Courses, run by Brian Lai and Yan Ge have established a new programme of choral music training for children between the ages of 3 and 12.
The programme has been set up with the aim of providing consistent music education of a high quality throughout from a very young age. There is a particular emphasis on developing listening and improvising skills, to enhance the existing approach to music teaching which is traditionally notation based and academic.
In addition to developing the Kodaly-based curriculum, I oversee the delivery of the weekly courses in Shenzhen, and I am also arranging a series of well respected British Choral Directors to go to the city to give masterclasses. During the summer months, when no classes run, week-long intensive courses are also organised by leading figures in British Choral Music, Ralph Allwood and Simon Toyne.
Setting up this new curriculum and finding the right person to deliver it has been an exciting challenge, but we’re very lucky to have Ben Gutsell and it’s exciting watching how the programme has taken hold over the last four months.
Ben moved to Shenzhen in February to begin delivering the programme. Here’s what he has to say about the new organisation:
"We are in full flow of our first semester here in Shenzhen, delivering a Kodály-based choral programme to students aged 3 - 12. We believe all children have the ability to sing and have the right to access quality music education. We aim to involve as many students as possible to help them achieve their musical potential and nurture a love of singing. Children are very hard-working in Shenzhen so it is a joy to introduce them to a new, more practical, style of teaching that achieves great results but is also fun!
I lead beginners music classes (ALPHA Zero) where we explore the foundations of music unconsciously through simple songs and musical games, and I also teach young choirs (ALPHA Original) using varied repertoire to solidify and develop these foundations into a conscious understanding of musicianship. In May we launched our first Boys' Choir which has generated a lot of interest among the singing community here!
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