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Back to the classics

05 April 2019

Students learn far more playing in an orchestra than just learning to perfect the sounds of the music on their own.

  • Back to the classics

They played for 12 hours a day until their fingers were sore, but their spirits were high.


For many students attending Nord Anglia’s China region performing arts festival it was the first time they were part of a large symphony orchestra led by a professional conductor. Students said rehearsals in the lead up to the final concert were both exciting and intense.


“Sometimes I forgot to look at the conductor and I sped up [when playing the snare drum],” Year 7 student and percussionist Matthew Yick from host school British International School Shanghai Puxi, said.


“Some of the overtures went really fast and I had to push myself to keep up with the tempo,” Year 8 student and trombone player Bryant Cheng from Nord Anglia International School Hong Kong said.


BISS Puxi Head of Music Stephen Morris said the long rehearsals proved to be a powerful learning experience for students because they saw how their individual practice at school contributed to the creation of a unified ensemble including 90 students from nine schools. The ability to scale from one to several schools as part of global premium schools group Nord Anglia Education enabled students to have a transformative experience.


“Suddenly this jigsaw started to come together. It made sense,” Mr Morris said. “We wanted students to have a real-life, contextual experience working with a professional conductor. One school cannot offer that experience on their own.”


The festival’s regional format is part of a new initiative by NAE to create engaging and ambitious learning in the performing arts by bringing students from schools in each region closer to the work being done through its collaboration with The Juilliard School, a world-leader in performing arts education. Similar, extraordinary opportunities are available in sports, debate and STEAM learning through its collaborations with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and UNICEF.


Through the group’s collaboration with Juilliard, BISS Puxi hosted a three-day orchestral festival early last month conducted by Juilliard Pre-College Faculty conductor Dr Oliver Hagen. The event included several performance opportunities, as well as workshops and masterclasses to further engage and inspire students to deepen their knowledge, understanding, skills and passion for orchestral music.


Dr Hagen said the number of children who attended was “spectacular”.