Zhang Xiaomin

Dalian ra­dio takes the joy of sound to class­rooms in poor com­mu­ni­ties. Zhu Cheng­pei and lis­ten to the spir­ited vol­un­teers who make it hap­pen.

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

hy so se­rio u s ? Come on, when the pho­tograp h e r counts ‘one... two... three’, let’s say ‘ qiezi’ (egg­plant) to­gether,” Yao Jiange calls out to dozens of people pos­ing for a group photo at a re­cent char­ity event in Dalian.

The 51-year-old has a gift for spark­ing cheer­ful chat­ter and laugh­ter wher­ever she goes.

Yao is a pro­moter of the char­ity project Sound of Yida — Love Mu­sic Class­room.

Ini­ti­ated in April 2011 by Dalian Mu­sic Ra­dio (FM1067), Dalian Char­ity Fed­er­a­tion and Dalian­based Yida Group, the project aims to put mu­sic rooms in ru­ral pri­mary schools.

In­clud­ing the 10 that were do­nated on March 25, the char­ity has set up 50 mu­sic rooms, each equipped with a piano, some clar­inets, har­mon­i­cas and some per­cus­sion in­stru­ments in Dalian and Chaoyang, cities in North­east China’s Liaon­ing prov­ince.

“I re­gard this project as a con­tin­u­a­tion of my mu­si­cal life,” says Yao, once a col­oratura so­prano.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Liaon­ing Ed­u­ca­tional In­sti­tute with a mu­sic de­gree in 1987, Yaobe­camea teacher at a tech­ni­cal school in Dalian. In 1995, she started host­ing pro­grams on Dalian Ra­dio.

When she was elected di­rec­tor of Dalian Mu­sic Ra­dio in 2008, Yao had an idea.

“I planned to hold a recital and do­nate all the in­come to the mu­si­cal ed­u­ca­tion of stu­dents in ru­ral ar­eas. But the fates dealt me a lousy hand — I was found to have gum cancer,” Yao re­calls.

It­wasabig­blow. Her­dreamof the recital evap­o­rated.

There is still a ver­ti­cal scar un­der her mouth, the re­sult of a trans­plant of the left part of her jaw.

“Thanks to her op­ti­mism, Yao got through the cancer very quickly,” says Yang Daoli, a friend and a well­known scholar in Dalian.

An ac­com­mo­dat­ing per­son filled with pas­sion, Yao has par­tic­i­pated in most of Dalian’s big cul­tural events over the past two decades, Yang says. En­cour­aged by her hus­band and her friends, Yao re­gained her pas­sion for the project and with the help of her col­league Chen Zhip­ing (bet­ter known as Ping­ping), she looked for a new way to ful­fill her dream.

Ping­ping found there were more than 200 pri­mary schools in Dalian’s ru­ral ar­eas, more than 80 per­cent of which had no mu­si­cal in­stru­ments. Mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion in those schools meant only singing.

“Stu­dents in ru­ral ar­eas should re­ceive the same mu­si­cal ed­u­ca­tion as their peers in ur­ban ar­eas do,” says Yao. She de­cided to seek help from en­ter­prises and in­di­vid­u­als, and many lo­cal com­pa­nies and warm-hearted people re­sponded.

“A group of people re­ally ded­i­cated to char­ity and ed­u­ca­tion is gath­er­ing around Yao. She and her team moved me with their enthusiasm and pro­fes­sional at­ti­tude,” says Bao Hongkui, vice-pres­i­dent of the lo­cal property gi­ant Yida Group, the big­gest con­trib­u­tor to the project.

Love Mu­sic Class­room cor­re­sponds per­fectly with Yida’s char­i­ta­ble work. As a plat­form to re­pay so­ci­ety, Yida has in­vited fa­mous art groups to give a Sound of Yida New Year Con­cert ev­ery year since 1994.

Bao says char­ity should not be a one-time im­pulse: “Good projects de­serve con­tin­u­ous do­na­tions. We do­nate at least 500,000 yuan ($80,000) to this one ev­ery year.”

In ad­di­tion to Yida, lo­cal com­pa­nies and alumni of Dalian Univer­sity have also con­trib­uted to fund the lat­est mu­sic rooms. Stu­dents from four pri­mary schools in Dalian do­nated one room with their pocket money.

Wafang­dian Song­shu Town Cen­tralPri­mary School is one of the first 10 schools that ac­cepted a do­nated room in 2011.

“We have been ea­ger to have mu­sic class since we got a piano. With these in­stru­ments, our class is not bor­ing any more,” says Li Xin, a stu­dent of the school who was cho­sen to at­tend a five-day mu­sic camp in Dalian in 2012. Li and an­other 52 pri­mary school stu­dents had lessons from pro­fes­sional mu­sic teach­ers and en­joyed live art per­for­mances.

“I love the sum­mer camp. There I learned some singing skills and be­came more con­fi­dent. My class­mates said I al­most be­come a dif­fer­ent per­son,” she says hap­pily.

“She was a shy girl. Now her eyes are shin­ing,” says Ci Xiaobo, Li’s mu­sic teacher.

In or­der to best use the in­stru­ments, Yao and her team laid out plans to train mu­sic teach­ers and stu­dents with po­ten­tial, in­clud­ing Ci.

Dur­ing the day, nearly 20 teach­ers from ru­ral pri­mary schools learn ex­tem­po­ra­ne­ous piano ac­com­pa­ni­ment and vo­cal mu­sic from top mu­si­cians in Dalian.

In Fe­bru­ary, Yao took the teach­ers to en­joy a live show at the Na­tional Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts in Bei­jing.

When the au­di­ence and the choir sang in uni­son the Singing of the Moth­er­land, Ci’s eyes filled with tears.

“Yao and her team did a great ser­vice for us,” she says, proud that the teach­ers had been able to pass along their enthusiasm to their stu­dents.

The Love Mu­sic Class­room project has be­come a brand of Dalian Mu­sic Ra­dio. Yao feels good to be fully en­gaged in it.

“I can do a lot be­fore I re­tire in four years. Think­ing of this, I cher­ish more what I have to­day, and hope a suc­ces­sor can take over this project,” she says.

“Mu­sic gives me strength. Char­ity makes me happy.” Con­tact the writ­ers through zhangx­i­aomin@ chi­nadaily.com.cn.

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