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#2220403 - 01/25/14 06:14 AM "Piano Mania Grips China" (Astonishing Mass Piano Photo)  
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#2220439 - 01/25/14 08:02 AM Re: "Piano Mania Grips China" (Astonishing Picture) [Re: -Frycek]  
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Great article! Thanks for sharing Frycek!

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#2220450 - 01/25/14 08:39 AM Re: "Piano Mania Grips China" (Astonishing Picture) [Re: -Frycek]  
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Looks like China is building an army of pianists!

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#2220613 - 01/25/14 02:04 PM Re: "Piano Mania Grips China" (Astonishing Picture) [Re: -Frycek]  
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Another interesting post, from forum member Opus_Maximus's blog

This past week I had the fortune of visiting a hip, up-and-coming international music school in Shanghai that my undergrad classmate and her fiancé recently founded. As it happened, one of the teachers got sick last minute and I inherited his teaching load.

The experience I had confirmed what we already hear about the boom of the piano culture there: That the scope and scale of it is incomparable. (Perhaps even surpassing the pianomania that shook Europe in the 1840's when Liszt was storming the concert halls and having women trying to get a lock of his hair as a concert souvenir).

The average practice time of some of the students clocks in at 8-11 hours per day. They have studied all of the Chopin etudes. (k12 aged students). They travel hundreds of miles to come to lessons (A group of students comes weekly by train from the neighboring city of Nanjing), and after their piano lessons stay around for interactive music theory and history classes. They practice their technical studies with the same care, craftsmanship and invested fervor as if they were practicing a Beethoven sonata. The rate for piano lessons is 800 RMB per hour (U.S $130). Most notable, however , is their attitude towards study; it's completely accepted that music is something one JUST DOES, and works as hard as much as any other subject. Practicing piano taking a back seat to sports activities and school projects is an alien concept. Contrary to Western perception, despite any "pushing" that may be going on into forcing students to study music, all the pupils I interacted with demonstrated exceedingly keen and sincere earnestness to dig as deeply as they could into the music, and this alone seemed their sole motivation for studying. (It was an endearing moment to watch a young teen explain to me, even with communication gaps, how one voicing possibility in a Chopin Nocturne touched his heart more than another, and ask for advice on how to achieve that). The only places in the USA were I could imagine and equivalency to this are the pre colleges of Juilliard and Curtis.

Granted, this is a very well-established and marketed school and is by no means representative of the entire country at all. (Some of the students came as "refugees" from far stricter and more "traditional" schools in northern China, where they suffered broken noses and ears from teachers due to bad preparation in lessons) - but even within the confines of such an elite school one can feel the nation's collective surge of passion for piano music that is overtaking the place like a tidal wave.

During a walk in the downtown area I stumbled across a street that made me wonder if my unaccustomed American palate had reacted to the Jiangsu Cuisine in a way that induced hallucinatory visions: For six blocks (minus the occasional violin shop or bakery)..there was nothing but piano stores. There must have been about twenty total, all standard sized and stocked with traditional German, American, and Chinese brands, each store mounted one against the other.

Everyone's entitled to their own opinion about this phenomena and it's connotations; but what is for sure is that if you're anybody in the piano world has never had the Chinese experience it will be the trippiest trip you've been on

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#2220679 - 01/25/14 05:20 PM Re: "Piano Mania Grips China" (Astonishing Mass Piano Photo) [Re: -Frycek]  
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Wow, that's a heck of a lot of piano playin' going on. shocked

Surely they (and their parents, who are footing the bill), understand that only a very, very few will end up with top billing like Lang Lang or Yundi Li. I'm not getting the impression they're playing for the fun of it, either. Is it mostly a status thing?

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#2220699 - 01/25/14 06:04 PM Re: "Piano Mania Grips China" (Astonishing Mass Piano Photo) [Re: Stubbie]  
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Sand Tiger Offline
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Originally Posted by Stubbie
Wow, that's a heck of a lot of piano playin' going on. shocked

Surely they (and their parents, who are footing the bill), understand that only a very, very few will end up with top billing like Lang Lang or Yundi Li. I'm not getting the impression they're playing for the fun of it, either. Is it mostly a status thing?

Frycek, thanks for posting the article.

I'll take a guess at Stubbie's question. Understand that an entire generation of parents and grand parents had their pianos taken from them by the government. The sheet music and music books were burned. The article says some pianos were burned too. Many of the piano families were sent to reeducation camps after being stripped of all their worldly goods, and forced to do hard labor and renounce those kind of pursuits.

Given that history, for a lot of folks it might be vicariously living through their kids. Giving their kids or grand kids a chance that the government took away by force.

In the U.S. there are many parents that push their kids into athletics (the most common), along with the stage parents, and a few piano parents as well. The parents want their kids to have the chance they never had. Most know the odds, but dreams are worth more than odds.

And yes, the million dollar Steinways and the like, are definitely status symbols and conspicuous consumption. A lot of that goes on in the U.S. too.

#2221371 - 01/27/14 10:51 AM Re: "Piano Mania Grips China" (Astonishing Mass Piano Photo) [Re: -Frycek]  
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With a huge population, everything seems big, which is why everybody wants to capitalize on the China and India. Forty million children is a huge number for the US or UK, but it's actually 3% of the Chinese population. I imagine the number of youngster involved in learning piano or some other form of musical instrument in the US is probably at least 3% if you count school bands, and other things.

These "news" articles are often business driven, so in a decade when there is a glut of pianos in China, nobody will report on all those students anymore when the Steinways of the world can't sell them anymore. Then, it'll be just like the US because nobody is "learning" pianos when actually it's more like nobody is "buying" new pianos.

Art is never finished, only abandoned. - da Vinci
#2221421 - 01/27/14 12:08 PM Re: "Piano Mania Grips China" (Astonishing Mass Piano Photo) [Re: -Frycek]  
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Sorry this content is not available in the UK >.>

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#2221520 - 01/27/14 03:38 PM Re: "Piano Mania Grips China" (Astonishing Mass Piano Photo) [Re: -Frycek]  
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To not exclude censored folks from the discussion...
photo: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/176625616609926997/

In Mao’s China, pianos were destroyed as despised symbols of the bourgeoisie – but now an estimated 40m children are learning the instrument. What has changed? Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore investigates.

Keng Zhou holds a prestigious position as dean of the International Piano Academy at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. But he first learnt to play in 1973 not on a gleaming grand piano but on an instrument’s battered remains. The legs had been sawn off for fuel and its cover removed to create a makeshift table. For years in Mao’s China, Western classical music was viewed suspiciously as a tool of imperialism and the piano a despised instrument of the bourgeoisie.

Like many intellectuals of the era, Keng’s father – a pastor who was given his piano by an American – was sent to the countryside to perform back-breaking work with the peasants. When he returned to the city he wanted to bring music back into his children’s lives. “My father said it is better to learn one instrument: my sister took vocal lessons, my father took violin lessons, and I took the piano,” remembers Keng, now 51. There was just one problem: during the Cultural Revolution many Western scores had been destroyed. Unperturbed, Keng’s father borrowed some surviving sheets from a friend. “He copied them by hand – one piece took him a week to do.”

Four decades later and times have changed. Today China is experiencing piano frenzy with an estimated 40m children now learning to play. The instrument is increasingly in vogue among China’s burgeoning middle classes, who have the money to splurge on steep lessons and expensive fixtures. Spurring them on is the phenomenal success of the Chinese superstar concert pianists Lang Lang and Li Yundi, the latter of whom is currently on a 30-city sell-out tour of his homeland. Tickets for the Beijing leg were snapped up within minutes. “So many parents say: ‘I didn’t have a chance to play but my kids need to play piano,’” observes Keng. “Now it is easier for people – now you just need to be able to afford it.”

While the European market for pianos is shrinking, China’s is booming. It is now both the world’s largest piano producer and consumer, with the country accounting for 76.9% of the global piano output in 2012 alone, according to market analysts ResearchMoz. But China is not just making pianos. It is also buying them. For many owning a Steinway, the Rolls-Royce of pianos, is a status symbol. Displaying a grand piano in the living room projects not only culture and learning but also wealth: only the largest homes can accommodate them. Prices can also veer into the extreme. Last year a commemorative edition Steinway grand piano, named Charm of the Dragon, sold for 6.9m RMB ($1.1m). “I have seen show homes with grand white pianos,” says Wray Armstrong, CEO of the Beijing-based Armstrong International Music and Arts Enterprises Ltd. “It certainly looks good [but] it was strictly for show.”

Keys to success

At the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, where tuition costs per year run into the tens of thousands of Renminbi, classical music wafts down the corridor on a balmy autumn evening. It is seven in the evening on a weekday but most of the practice rooms are full. Wang Ming Gang, a shy 21-year-old student, practices the piano here for up to four hours every day. With a businessman father and a mother who works in the civil service, Wang’s parents are wealthy enough to help support his dream of becoming a musician.

Originally from eastern Shandong province, Wang’s parents sent him to Shanghai because it is seen as both a financial and cultural centre. He considers himself lucky. “My friends from my hometown will not choose to study piano,” says Wang. “It is very expensive. Economic pressure is key. Another reason is that playing piano is not easy – it is not like you study two or three years and you become famous. My parents didn’t give me any pressure, this road is my own choice.”

That is not the case for Su Fan, a 25-year-old postgraduate piano student from the southern boomtown of Guangzhou who has been playing for over a decade. “My parents encouraged me to study because the piano was a dream of my mother since she was very young. But she didn’t have the chance to study,” says Su, speaking at the Conservatory. “My grandfather forced his daughter to study science. At that time people thought that by learning science you could get a good job.”

Su, who sports a gelled fringe, square hipster glasses, and a pink T-shirt, has ambitions to be a piano teacher. It is, he admits, “not a wealthy job”. But he wants to further the pursuit of the piano in China: “I want to teach more students to know the piano. To spread my musical dreams and ideas.” To facilitate this Su works part time as a teacher, where he charges students up to 300RMB ($49) for 45 minutes. Over the past seven years he has seen an explosion in the number of students he tutors: from just a couple when he started to more than 30 per week today. He now has so many he often turns them away.

Practice makes perfect?

Despite this, Su believes the piano is far from established. “Most of the students are from wealthy or middle-class families. Even though China has progressed economically, most families [still] only think about the high price of rice, the high price of social welfare,” he muses. “It needs generations of hard work. Quality development needs accumulation. It cannot happen overnight.”

“The piano might have been seen by many as a route out, as a way to college, as a way to the US, even as a way to get to Beijing from the countryside. As a way to a better place in society,” Armstrong adds. Success stories such as Lang Lang’s have proved an inspiration for pushy parents keen to add to their children’s resume. The piano prodigy learnt to play while living in relative poverty in Beijing; he grew up in a rented room, sharing a toilet and sink with five other families. Today Lang Lang has an international rock’n’roll lifestyle and has performed for dignitaries including President Obama at the White House.

In spite of its popularity other challenges for the piano persist. Scandals involving bribery and corruption have plagued some of China’s conservatories of music. Demand is also growing too fast with many less accomplished teachers unable to keep up, according to Keng. And critics of China’s teaching methods say they place too much emphasis on rote learning with little room for creativity. “The Chinese want to force their kids to practice piano,” says Keng. “It is too old a method. It needs to be more about enjoying playing the piano. For most students it will kill your hobby and kill your enjoyment.”

Still, Keng believes that classical music in China has come a long way from when he was a child learning keys on a broken piano. “I think it is a very great, very bright future. Before [parents] wanted their kids to become Lang Lang or Yundi, to become a superstar. Parents have started to change this idea. Now they want their kids to just know classical music and to have the piano accompany their whole life. I hope more and more kids can love to play from their hearts.”

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