1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

The School of Rock

December, 2010
Leave a comment 48290 views

Whilst glorious carols are still on the agenda for this Christmas, students from across Beijing international schools have been swapping Père Noël for Pink Floyd. Carefully positioning their orchestral instruments back in the music rooms, a number of students have gathered together to revive the era of rock, punk and funk for a new generation.

If it wasn’t John, Paul, Ringo and George sitting in a classroom some fifty years ago strumming on guitars, forming what we now recognise as The Beatles, it would have been hundreds of other legendary artists playing hand-me-down instruments trying to make it happen. At this moment, teenagers in school auditoriums have been striking a chord with their musical predecessors by reforming the ‘student band.’

Dan Albar has been exercising his bass guitar skills for the last six months in one of these student bands. “You get to accomplish more if you play your own music, because it allows you to be creative and you can be proud of the result.” Guillaume’s Band, (as the three-piece are currently known,) is Harrow International School Beijing’s resident funk and classic rock group, and they aren’t afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to music. Inspired by the improvised sixties stylings of BB King and Buddy Rich, the group differs immensely from some of the other bands also taking to the stage.

Along with Phreaks, an all-girl punk rock group, Headless is the longest-running student band at Harrow, keeping to an ‘all Korean’ cast tradition. Devoted to the music, both bands have had experience playing at Harrow’s various musical events. “The teachers really support us in our music, including staying with us after school and even arranging concerts for us,” says Steve Shin, pianist for Headless. With performances at this year’s “Harroween” Halloween bash, the school’s emphasis on music is apparent throughout the curriculum.

On a very different note, Beijing City International School introduces one of the only ‘hard rock’ student bands in the city - No Idea. No Idea have attempted to enter the annual ‘BCIS Idol’ talent show on a number of occasions, but feel that the audience may not be ready for their sound. “We really want to get past the auditions for ‘BCIS Idol;’ some people say that we have to stop screaming, but others tell us that it is the best we’ve played, so it is a mixed reaction,” says bassist Daniel Yelamos. “We have to tone it down a little bit, as it is a school band, but we have people who support us.” Daniel also revealed that although he did not actually own a bass guitar, the school provided him with one on which he was able to practice for the last three years.

bcis-band-1sThe band has a mix of musical cultures, with Asian rock music lovers included in the ensemble. “You take other people into consideration when you play in a band and you get to know everyone’s personal likes,” a thought that was shared amongst all of the student bands that we spoke to.

Whilst the Grade 12 members are on the verge of graduating high school, Yew Chung International School of Beijing has students from the other end of the spectrum. The 8th Grade musical prodigies have already had years of practice under their belts on a number of instruments. Mandy Chung, lead vocalist from 4United says that the band’s very first encounter with music was through YCIS’s profound focus on music immersion.

ycis-band-2s“I played piano from the age of three to eleven years old, whilst I played violin from the age of four to six. So we try to encourage each other to play different instruments,” Mandy explains having taken compulsory violin lessons from Key Stage 4. According to the school, learning an instrument helps students develop important motor and interdisciplinary skills which 4United have adopted as a factor in their country blues and jazz band. “Through musical interaction, we have a friendship,” which the group use as a foundation to create their own lyrics and music. Being the youngest student band around, YCIS is looking forward to the years ahead with the group.

A little less “High School Musical,” Four Leaf Clover is Beijing World Youth Academy’s local alternative rock band. Stimulated by BWYA’s more holistic approach, the four-piece has ventured into writing their own songs. Unlike the average adolescent, listening to depressing melodies while being cooped up in their room, Four Leaf Clover uses the ‘pleasurable’ aspects of life as their muse and even constructs unplugged pieces for effect. Guitarist Jordan Disch speaks about the skills acquired from learning music outside of the classroom as “a place to express yourself and understand people,” as he illuminates on communication within a band space.

bwya-band-s“You have to be patient and flexible with everyone, and if you don’t learn the pieces, you feel you have let the others down.” Jordan goes further into explaining the importance of having aptitude for organisation, in order for the whole ensemble to function together. For the band, music is a form of “life experience,” that they feel they need to understand. And to take this further, BWYA students have been showing interest in holding a Band Night for the different student bands to showcase their talents. The school has been encouraging the formation of such events, so watch this space for future concerts.

Despite the diversity of pupils involved in the recent upsurge of these bands, the consensus from all of the students was that using their own imagination and creativity was a “stress reliever,” and an essential outlet while studying. In this fashion, international schools throughout Beijing have developed a curriculum that will allow the Arts to nurture their student’s talent and direct them into using their qualities in all aspects of their lives. As some of the bands we spoke to agreed, “we got to play at other schools, and people recognise us from there,” says Dan from Guillaume’s band. So is music a path that the students plan on taking? As 4United’s Mandy says “If we stick together, we will keep playing. We also want to take IGCSE and IB Music, so it is definitely the way we want to go.”

As the older students have only a few years until they graduate high school, Daniel from No Idea tells us “I’d love to keep on playing in a band after I graduate. It would just be a matter of finding the right people!” A concept united by all of the musical seniors. However, as drumsticks replace pens and literature is traded in for sheet music, how far do the students take the pastime of music instead of the prescribed curriculum?

“We don’t really let the band affect our studies; we separate the days we are free from the days we need to study,” the Grade 8 students agreed upon. So with that said, it seems that history will repeat itself. We may see a modern day Red Hot Chili Peppers or U2, starting their careers in a classroom. Whatever happens though, the present generation are reviving the ‘student band’ and perhaps we will see these young artists in Wembley Stadium or at Carnegie Hall someday. 

By Suswati Basu



Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • Sphinn
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Mixx
  • Google Bookmarks
  • E-mail this story to a friend!
  • LinkedIn
  • Live
  • MSN Reporter
  • MySpace
  • RSS
  • Twitter
  • Yahoo! Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz

admin Feature , , , ,

Related Articles

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.