Mercedes-Benz's noteworthy musical challenge

By Li Fangfang (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-10-18 15:34
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BEIJING - Taking music lessons used to be nearly impossible for the average school student in the countryside in Southeast China's Sichuan province. However, that's no longer the case.

"It's amazing that my classmates and I can perform beautiful music with mixed rhythms after just one hour of practice, using plastic bottles, paper boxes, and some strange but simple hand-held musical instruments we've never seen before," said Liu Zhichao, a Grade 6 student at Shifang Mercedes-Benz School in Sichuan province.

"It was also the first time I had stood before a crowd giving a show. I was not as nervous and embarrassed as I expected. Performing music is no longer a distant dream."

Liu was one of several students in his school participating in special lively music lessons given by stars of the music world and volunteers from Mercedes-Benz last month during the launch of the first Mercedes-Benz Happy Music Classroom.

Liu Rui, a member of the Li Biao Youth Percussion Group, said after teaching Liu Zhichao's class: "I never imagined how easy it was to make these children happy with music. Some of them told me that they actually dream of playing musical instruments or becoming musicians. They just cannot believe it will someday come true."

A professional teaching workshop was organized for the music teachers to be updated with the most advanced teaching concepts. Mercedes-Benz invited senior education specialists from the Central Conservatory of Music for an exchange forum with about 20 music teachers from Shifang who answered their questions about teaching music.

Moreover, about 40,000 students from Hope Schools across the country will receive a special gift from the Mercedes-Benz family: music classrooms, which are well equipped with music instruments and teaching facilities and geared up to bringing music classes to life.

The Mercedes-Benz "Inspiring the Future" Project Hope Happy Music Classroom Program will provide proper music classrooms in 125 Hope Schools with help from the China Youth Development Foundation (CYDF) through a donation of 4.3 million yuan under the Mercedes-Benz Star Fund, which was launched in July.

The 125 music classrooms will be set up in 23 cities across the country, including some in Hebei, Anhui, Fujian, Sichuan, and Gansu provinces. The standard donation of 35,000 yuan ($5,247) for each classroom will cover hardware facilities such as electric pianos, Hi-Fi equipment, drums, maracas and other percussion instruments as well as standard band and other common instruments including trumpets, harmonicas and clarinets.

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Furthermore, the program will also provide professional training for music teachers from the beneficiary schools and arrange volunteer teaching visits and special music performances in which performance costumes and special ethnic instruments will be customized to the needs of different regions.

The "Inspiring the Future" Program is a comprehensive music education support initiative that not only establishes well-furnished music classrooms for Hope school children but also offers an engaging platform on which teachers and students can interact and learn.

"We know that many children from remote and mountainous areas have in their hearts a simple music dream. However, the lack of well-qualified teachers and facilities as well as the gap in quality education between urban and rural areas pushed the children a step further away from realizing these dreams. And this is where we hope we can make a difference and create an opportunity to make their dreams come true," said Anthea Wang, vice-president, communications and public relations, Mercedes-Benz (China) Ltd and Daimler Northeast Asia.

"It is this very need and sense of responsibility that motivated us to launch the Mercedes-Benz 'Inspiring the Future' Project Hope Happy Music Classroom Program, offering access for 40,000 children from 125 Hope Schools to proper music education."