24 Jun, 2022
10 : 00
With 90 illustrious years of history in educating and developing children, Yew Chung Yew Wah Education Network has been offering a trail-blazing holistic education in service of the community. Its music program and the Fellows-in-Residence program have, in particular, helped develop students’ all-round interests and talents.
Cultivating interest in music
Mr. Jeremy Williams, Music Director of the Yew Chung Education Foundation, points out that YCYW has long been renowned for its strength in music education, giving students plenty of exposure to learn the skills and to appreciate its wonders.
“When children come into primary school, we spare no effort to inspire them, for example, teaching them about rhythm, showing them how to play various instruments, and giving them vocal training,” says Williams. “Our teachers will also expose them to a variety of music genres, such as pop, classical, jazz, and more.”
The music program at YCYW is structured from early childhood education (ECE) to IB music in years 12 and 13. As part of the elementary curriculum, every student learns to play the violin. “It’s chosen as the first instrument because it is small, portable, and perfect for training coordination and concentration,” Williams notes. “Other instruments, such as winds, brass, and lower strings, can be extended progressively, allowing orchestras and groups to grow.”
At YCYW, music education encompasses a wide range of features that are both rewarding and interesting. Chamber music ensembles, pop groups, orchestras, choruses, masterclasses, performances, and contests are just a few examples. The Masterclasses feature highly qualified specialized musicians willing to share their experience with young instrumentalists and singers. These Masterclasses provide students with the opportunity to develop advanced musical talents. International pianists Julian Jacobson from the United Kingdom and Dr Mary Wu from Hong Kong have both visited YCYW in recent years.
In order to develop and encourage students to actively participate in the program, YCYW offers a robust scholarship system that attracts and incentivizes students to participate in the music program more comprehensively. Students who excel in instrumental and vocal skills are invited to audition for these awards.
According to Williams, YCYW is part of a vast community of sister schools spanning Silicon Valley to China, and their music curriculum is unique among international schools. As a result, an extended community emerges, where collaboration and idea sharing flourish.
“There is a positive learning environment in YCYW’s music program as we give students a lot of flexibility by allowing them to form their own groups as they all have different tastes,” Williams notes. “On the other hand, we expect a commitment. We always encourage students, once they join a program, to strive for the highest standard they possibly can.”
Let them shine!
There are numerous opportunities for students to shine in competitions and performances amongst the Yew Chung and Yew Wah Schools, with external experts invited to judge their standards. They also get to compete internationally in cities like Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing in China, and in the United States.
“These performances are beneficial to students not only in helping them grow as a musician, but also in their whole-person development,” says Williams. “My advice to them is not to worry about winning or losing, but to put their best foot forward and constantly strive for improvement.”
YCYW has worked with Paul Archibald, a distinguished trumpet player from London, to help launch the school’s Chamber Instrumental Program which is aimed at encouraging students to play not only string instruments, but also brass instruments like flute, clarinet, saxophone, tenor horns, and more.
YCYW also prides itself in the Fellows-in-Residence (FIR) program which brings in professionals, including Artists-in-Residence, covering visual art, performing arts (dance and theatre) and music, and Scientists-in-Residence to work with students. Their presence is designed to inject new knowledge, ideas, inspirations, visions, skills and techniques, to enrich the schools’ education ecosystem.
According to Crystal Yip, Head of the Fellows-in-Residence program, their program is unique, not only in Hong Kong, but also in China, or even in Asia. These Fellows work with students from kindergarten, primary through secondary, and closely collaborate with teachers on various subject matters. “For example, when our primary students have a history lesson on Egypt, our Artist-in-Residence would initiate a cross-curricular project in the classroom by creating art pieces related to Egypt art and culture, through the creation process, students will have wider and deeper understanding of the theme,” she elaborates.
In kindergarten, students do not follow a strict syllabus, but one popular lesson is introducing them to the masterpieces of art, like Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’. “The key here is to let the children learn how to appreciate a masterpiece of art through hands-on experience. The artwork shows a field of roiling energy, with exploding stars and flamelike cypress. Our artists allow the students to play with the light clay freely, let them explore the texture and color, experimenting with mixing different colors. Through all these explorations, students will then be able to inject the energy to their artwork and make it vivid and vibrant like Van Gogh’s. It’s an immersive exercise that effectively helps them appreciate art.
Yip cites an example of a Scientist-in-Residence project. Four scientists from HKU were invited to the school to conduct experiments with their students on a topic of How Human Machine Works. “In these fun projects with the Scientists-in-Residence, students learned how human bodies react to different activities, and broadened their vision as they asked a lot of questions to satisfy their curiosity,” she observes.
In music, YCYW has introduced an “In-School Individual Instrumental Program” to develop students’ musical talent. Professional musicians were appointed as Musicians-in-Residence to teach the students. “We also organized masterclasses of different instruments, as well as recitals and concerts for students to perform on stage to gain experience and boost their confidence.” Students can choose to join this program within school time.
Building on the success of the program, Yip says that YCYW will continue looking for different professional specialists and invite them to work with the school, including some on a short-term visiting basis.
“One example is that we invited a writer to stay with us for a period of three months to work with the students on story writing, sharing her experience and insights with our senior students,” says Yip. “ One of the collaborative projects between the writer and the Artist-in-Residence was that the writer guided students to use words to define the characters while the artist guided the students to define the character visually. This facilitates students’ thinking from different perspectives and bolsters their critical thinking and analytical ability.”
Celebration of the School’s 90th anniversary
There are a variety of musical events planned to commemorate the School’s 90th anniversary this year. As many live events and festivities were canceled due to the pandemic, a number of online concerts and music workshops were held. Williams is confident that beginning this year, Yew Chung will be able to organize live performances commemorating the 90th anniversary, including music competitions, festivals, and concerts exhibiting music drama and dance.
During the 90th anniversary celebrations, students will be encouraged to participate in online performances if there are any more Covid restrictions. All of these commemorative activities, according to Williams, will serve as a massive ‘Musical Gala’ for YCYW, which will undoubtedly give everyone an unforgettable experience. Foreign judges will be asked to adjudicate the instrumental and composer categories in order to determine the overall winners.
As an integral part of the 85th anniversary celebration of YCYW five years ago, the Fellows-in-Residence program produced a storybook on their founder, Madam Tsang Chor Hang. For the 90th anniversary celebration this year, this story has been turned into a 90-minute musical named Mother’s Legacy’. The Artist-in-Residence (theatre) together with the script writing team and the music creation team spent over 4 years to create this original musical. There are different genres of the song that go along with the story.
In celebration of the 90th anniversary of YCYW, there will be an art exhibition at the Hong Kong Arts Center, and an Art Carnival in Beijing. Both events will be held in October, mainly exhibiting students’ artwork.
Related to the Scientists-in-Residence program, there will be a video game design competition aimed at cultivating students’ creativity. “It may be a small project, but students need to master a lot of knowledge and skills,” Yip elaborates. “Video game design trains students’ logical thinking, as even just one minor mistake could jeopardize the entire project.”