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School of Rock

April, 2006
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  Song Yichen is a Grade 12 student at the Beijing World Youth Academy (BWYA), and will graduate in two months’ time. To her, this not only means she will leave the school, but also her music band.  

  “Unfortunately, our band will dissipate, but our dreams in music — never. This is probably one of the best memories of our school life.” Song said peacefully. Also graduating is Madelaine, the drummer in the band, nicknamed “The Taller” by other members, as she is taller. In addition to these two, there is Lyuji, a Japanese guitar player, and Sho, a guy “borrowed” from a real rock band called Death Metal in Beijing.IMG_1584

  Song herself plays the keyboard and sings most of the time. “At the very beginning, we set up this band just for the school Christmas show last year,” Song recalled. “Since we performed together at  many school shows, and practiced together, people started to see us as a band.” 

  At present, her band is known as the BWYA Senior Band as all the players are in Grade 12. In fact, the “Senior Band” has been part of the school culture for nearly two years. It was first run in the form of a music club, where every student on campus could apply and use the facilities and music instruments to practice. 

  “Because I know about drums, the music teacher asked me to join the music club. Similarly, they all play some instruments, like guitar or keyboard,” explained Madelaine. At that time before the Christmas show, they practiced about three hours everyday, and Song said that was a lot of fun. “We play all kinds of styles, or no style. And we gave many students a big surprise on performance day,” she said.  

  Their only performance outside the school was in a pubic activity in Chaoyang Park on Earth Day.  “That was about environmental protection, and we played our own song there,” Madelaine said proudly. Now, the four are not only members of the same band, but also very close friends. Song also joked with the Japanese guitarist: “We are also bound together because of the Sino-Japanese friendship.” 

  Looking into the future, they all believe “there will be another Senior Band before long.”   In fact, you may find one already when you pass in front of the main building of WYA campus around lunchtime. If you feel the ground is rocking and rolling, that is the band.   “They are the junior band, with four boys from Grades 9 and 10,” introduced Thomas Sorensen, the BWYA music teacher. “We call it the Beijing World Youth Academy Rock & Roll Club.”  IMG_1595

  The band was also set up not long before last year’s Christmas performance, but they have been doing rock & roll “for ages”, in the words of one member. Asked why they like rock & roll, guitar player Robert Gonnolly said rock & roll has the most things in music. “I think it is the truest music,” he said, and added that rock & roll needs a lot of technical ability. “Beijing seems to have a tradition of playing punk, rock and metal. Many high school students still play a lot of heavy music or punk music,” said Sorensen.  

  The boys practice every day after lunch or after school in the basement music room where they can use the drums or other instruments of the school. They think it is a nice break in their studies and a good way to relax, even one that helps with their homework.   “It takes a lot of time but it’s nice to have something like a break in the studying, and also a very productive activity to grasp.”   Thomas Sorensen himself is a musician, and he would like to join in their practices when he is free. 

  “These guys have pushed themselves a lot. It’s great to have students who are so into music,” said the teacher. “It also sets us apart  from other schools, as we can offer this. This is definitely helpful for the students because they are under a lot of pressure these days. Coming down here, they can be themselves and do something they enjoy.” 

  Last year, the band was once invited to perform at a Chinese music school on its 55th anniversary, which made them feel very proud. Hopefully, they will be playing in some student bars in Wu Daokou, Sorensen disclosed. 

  “Definitely in the summer time and earlier autumn, they can get into it,” he said.  

By Xing Yangjian

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