THE ENGLISH MUSIC PROGRAM AT HUAMEI - AN OVERVIEW
By Eleni Stamboli, pianist, vocal coach, teacher of music
There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song”.
Music is the universal language of expression, a language everyone understands. We are inspired by music because we all “have a song”. In the words of Confucius, “music produces a kind of pleasure that human nature cannot do without”. As Plato put it, ”Rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul.”
The English music program at Huamei International School offers students exactly that: the opportunity to enrich their knowledge of English, while experiencing the pleasure of expressing themselves and communicating through music.
The goal of the program is to immerse students in an English-speaking environment, which is the best way to learn a language, and to teach them the tools they need to communicate their thoughts and feelings about music. Their major area of study is music and songs in English. But they also come into contact with sounds, instruments and songs from many different cultures and languages, building a true appreciation of the universal language of sound, understanding connections and learning how to be truly global citizens.
In the Primary division, the English music class is addressed to students of the GIA, STREAMS and ETU programs in grades 1 to 6. Topics include how to read and write in staff notation and how this corresponds to the Chinese number notation and the English letters notation; listening training and awareness of sound; singing skills, good quality singing and group singing; playing an instrument, both Chinese and Western; collaborating with peers in small and larger groups; listening to and appreciating different kinds of music, such as classical music as well as traditional folk songs; composing original pieces and expressing musical ideas; performing in front of many kinds of audiences, in front of peers, teachers and parents.
In the two years of running this program, many performances have established the English music classes as a high-level, professionally trained team. The student performances have won second prize in the 2018 New Year Gala and first prize in the 2019 New Year Gala, with an impressive production in two languages, inspired by African and Indonesian music and textiles. They have also presented the first official performance of the English version of the Huamei school song in the opening ceremony of the 2018-19 Arts Festival, in a joint performance with the Middle School choir, to great acclaim.
It is interesting to note that if a student, especially a younger one, is asked about what they do in music class, they will probably say “We learn by playing!”. Play is a very powerful educational tool: it enforces concepts and teaches skills without the limitations of the traditional classroom. Children will learn better and remember longer by doing something, rather than reading about it or being told of it. Practical experience is a big part of the class: students play with cards, move around the room, play games, try new instruments, teach each other, use technology to learn more. They will even take their practice outside in the open air, taking advantage of the spacious school campus.
Research has proven that the students who are actively involved in music at school actually do better in their academic courses than those who aren’t. Studying music improves focus, concentration and memory. It teaches perseverance and patience, collaboration and social skills. It builds a strong work ethic and moral values. It also gives a voice to creativity and the individual voice of each person, and it teaches to respect and value each individual person’s contribution to the group.
Having performed and taught music in many different places and languages, and having collaborated and coached musicians for many years at all levels from beginner to professional, I am very happy to put my experience in the service of our students. I hope to continue to support the students’ learning and growth in an international environment, inspiring and leading them to achieve greater artistic heights and bringing more joy and music to our lives!