China is in the midst of one of the largest migrations in human history. Across rural China, men and women of working age are leaving their villages for the workshops and factories of the South China boomtowns. Permanently migrating to larger cities is difficult, however, and migrants tend to leave their children at home to be raised by their elderly parents. As a result, only the very young and very old remain in many Chinese villages. The elderly must assume the responsibilities of their migrating children, raising their grandchildren and working the family land. And the youngest generation, lacking parental guidance, becomes vulnerable to the darker aspects of Chinese rural society, including drug use and crime.
The promotion of extracurricular activities is one way to address these problems. Primary music education in particular has been proven to improve children’s interpersonal skills, emotional health, and performance in a wide variety of academic subjects. Since Reform and Opening, it has maintained a rapidly increasing presence in major Chinese cities. However, 85% of Chinese primary school students live in rural areas, where most schools lack the resources to develop music programs of their own.
A group of Fulbright China researchers, musicians (Chinese and from abroad), educators, local NGO leaders and others form the core of the Unity Rural Music Project. Our mission is to address this issue by organizing a series of music-themed summer camps in rural Sichuan and Guangxi Provinces. Through these camps, we will provide participating schools with instruments, textbooks and teacher training, helping them lay the foundation for sustainable music programs. Additionally, the camps will provide a valuable opportunity for cultural exchange between students and instructors, providing students a chance to learn and interact with musicians and role models from urban China and abroad.
ABOUT THE BLOGGERS
David Borenstein is a 2009-10 Fulbright Fellow in China researching rural social issues that result from Internal Migration trends. He is a 2009 graduate of the University of Florida, where he was named Valedictorian and Outstanding Scholar of his graduating class. He plays saxophone and clarinet in a number of ensembles—notably his Afro Latin band ‘Umoja Orchestra,’ with which he has released three studio albums and participated in many national tours.
Jonathan Kaiman is a 2009-2010 Fulbright fellow researching the influence of modernization on China’s Yi minority people, with a focus on their traditional folk and instrumental music. His interest in Chinese education began in summer 2009, when on a grant from the Luce Foundation, he taught music and other lessons to primary school students throughout rural Sichuan and Guangxi Provinces. Jonathan is a saxophonist, singer-songwriter, and folksong collector who has performed regularly in New York and Beijing and recorded hundreds of songs in Southwest China.