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Student orchestras boast big talent

THE Shanghai Student Symphony Orchestra has existed for only a short time but it fits right in with well-known orchestras that have already existed for years at some of the city's international schools, Nie Xin and Benjamin Li report.

Shanghai has a lot of young, talented musicians. Proof is in the newly founded Shanghai Student Symphony Orchestra and other student orchestras at various international schools in the city.

The Shanghai Student Symphony Orchestra made its debut performance on August 21 in the Music in the Summer Air Festival.

The orchestra was conducted by Cao Peng and they performed classical works from Rossini, Tchaikovsky and Chen Gang.

The group was founded in July by the Shanghai Education Commission, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and Shanghai Technology and Art Education Center.

"This is the first local student symphony orchestra in Shanghai," Cao says. "The musicians are presenting the highest level of young talents in Shanghai."

Cao is currently the principal conductor and artistic director of the orchestra. The student orchestra comprises approximately 90 students, ranging in age from 15 to 24 years.

Cao says famous musicians from domestic and overseas orchestras will be invited to tutor the students from time to time. The orchestra will participate in the annual Shanghai summer music festival. They will perform at international art events and also take part in international music competitions.

They will rehearse about twice a week, with extra rehearsals ahead of important performances.

"Performance opportunities of the highest quality will be offered to our students," Cao says. "The Music in the Summer Air Festival demonstrated that the musicians at Shanghai Student Symphony Orchestra are on par with top student musicians around the world."

Compared with the new student orchestra, many international schools in Shanghai started student orchestras years ago.

The Intermediate and the Advanced Orchestras at the Shanghai American School's Pudong campus is comprised of approximately 40 students from 14 to 18 years of age. ?

The orchestras are divided according to the experience of the performer. However, they perform at concerts as a combined orchestra.

"We present a fall and spring concert and perform for school musicals and other important occasions such as graduation. The repertoire and range of musical styles is a strength of our music program," says John Leonard, SAS High School Orchestra director.

The music they perform reflects the US national standards of music, covering everything from baroque, Renaissance, classical, romantic, as well as jazz, pop and film scores.

Yew Chung International School of Shanghai was founded by Yew Chung Education Foundation, and the orchestra founded 11 years ago is a part of that foundation as well.

There are now two extracurricular orchestras in the school. They give performances three or four times a year, usually at Christmas and during summer.

They have also toured the United Kingdom, Australia, Hungary and Austria.

"I truly believe that our school orchestras are among the best in international schools across the world. It's well-known that our orchestra is one of the best in Shanghai. We take our music program very seriously, and push strongly for a higher musical standard in our orchestras," says Gary Sanderson, director of the Music and Dance Division for Yew Chung Education Foundation.

The music they play is not just classical.

"The students compose their own music so that they have a wide variety of music that appeals strongly to them. For example, they play Beethoven's works with electric guitar and a drum set," Sanderson says.

The orchestra has produced several professional musicians including Japanese violinist Nobuo Suganuma.

Dulwich College China has forged excellent links with the world famous Vienna Boys' Choir and for the fifth year running, up to 50 talented choristers were invited to participate in the annual Vienna Boys' Choir summer camp and workshops.

The more experienced choristers performed Mozart's Coronation Mass in Vienna's renowned St Stephen's Cathedral and all choristers participated in workshops at the famous Augarten Palais home of the Vienna Boys' Choir.

In addition, the British International School's Pudong campus has an active jazz band, rock bands, a school orchestra and four choirs.?These groups meet regularly to develop their performance skills and be part of a social network crossing different age groups.?

Regular concerts and school musicals throughout the year add to the richness of life in Pudong for its families and friends.

Indeed, these young, talented musicians, whether in the Shanghai Student Symphony Orchestra or one at an international school, can make the city proud.


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