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