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Guzheng Artist Makes Rural Children's Musical Dreams Come True

Pub Date:16-10-13 08:41 Source:www.womenofchina.cn

Yu Xiaodong teachers her students to play guzheng. [Women of China English Monthly]

Yu Xiaodong, a renowned guzheng (a traditional Chinese plucked musical instrument) artist, is commonly referred to as "Guzheng Mama" by 30 students at Little Nanjing Primary School, in Donggang Village, in Jinzhai County, in east China's Anhui Province. Yu has been teaching young students how to play guzheng since June 2014. "The children love music. What I can do is open a window to music for them," Yu says.

Yu and some of her friends visited the primary school in June 2014. During that visit, Yu performed guzheng to entertain the students. The school is located at the foot of Dabie Mountain. Most of the students live with their grandparents, as their parents work elsewhere in China.

The students were interested in her performance, so Yu decided to start a guzheng class for them. She and her friends and family members donated more than 200,000 yuan (US $30,769) to buy more than 40 guzheng.

Shanwawa Guzheng Training Class was added to the school's curriculum in November 2014, and more than 30 students attended the class.

Yu lives in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu Province. Every month, she goes to the school, when her schedule permits. "The students are diligent, and they are making great progress. They tell me that they feel happier since they have been playing guzheng," Yu says.

"I spent 26 days at the school in March this year. I enjoy staying with the students, who are simple and honest. I teach them after school, from Monday to Friday, and I also teach during weekends. We have a class monitor. When I am not at the school, the monitor helps organize the students' practices." Yu says.

"I teach them new musical compositions, and I assign homework every time before I leave. I give them a test the next time I return. My family supports me. My daughter and my friends also come to see the children sometimes. They are pleased with the children's progress."

In addition to teaching, Yu also cares about the students' lives and academic performances. She treats them like she is their mother. The students trust her, and they respect her. The children chat with her when they encounter various difficulties in their lives, and they call her "Mama Yu." Says Yu: "We are like a big family, and we have a close relationship. Sometimes, they cry when I have to leave the school."

The Sixth Jinzhai Campus Culture and Art Festival was held in November 2015. Yu arrived at the school a month before the festival. She led the students during rehearsals, and she gave costumes to the students. On November 14, the students won the special award for their outstanding performance during the festival. "The children were really happy to win the award. I feel proud of them," Yu says.

There are 10 grades — 10 being the highest level — in guzheng performance in China. The China Nationalities Orchestra Society, in Beijing, organizes the annual grading of guzheng tests. "This summer, the students are going to participate in the Grade 6 test. They have been practicing hard for the test. I am confident," Yu says.

She plans to organize two camps for the students this summer. "The summer vacation of the students is usually dull. They just hang around at the village. I want to invite some students, who play guzheng, from Nanjing or other cities to the school," Yu says. "It will be a good opportunity for both rural and urban children to study and communicate with each other, and to broaden their views."

Yu Xiaodong teachers her students to play guzheng. [Women of China English Monthly]

Yu Xiaodong's students learn to play guzheng. [Women of China English Monthly]

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