Shanghai Orchestra Academy Creates The 'Shanghai Model' For Young Orchestral Musicians' Education
In the Chinese tradition, projects are always planned in five-year cycles. Since it was established in September 2014, the Shanghai Orchestra Academy (SOA) has achieved its first five-year goal - it has created a "Shanghai Model" for professional young orchestral musicians' education, which has sparked widespread interest at home and abroad.
The first semester of SOA started in September 2014, co-founded by Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, and Shanghai Conservatory of Music. Musicians from the New York Philharmonic have given thousands of lessons to SOA students. They are coming once again to Shanghai March 17-22, 2020 as one of their four teaching periods every year.
SOA lessons are not only taught in the classroom, but there are also many off-campus practice opportunities, including performances during the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra's concert season and side-by-side opportunities with internationally renowned orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, which benefit the students. Violin student Chang Luo from SOA's class of 2019 studied at the Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media and also received a master's degree from Freiburg Conservatory. However, he chose to continue studying at the SOA after his return to China, even with degrees from overseas. After studying for nearly four months so far, Luo sighed, "in the beginning, it was frustrating, and very stressful!"
At the SOA, Luo went through a period of development he described as, "progressing from psychological collapse to rebuilding." He explained, "No one will force you when studying abroad. But, at the SOA you are pushed all the time because there are always practical opportunities. You are always working and performing together with your mentors from the Shanghai Symphony or New York Philharmonic. You have to go forward under the pressure."
Pei Li is the concertmaster of Shanghai Symphony. He joined the SOA in its first semester, and so far, has taught six years. He says the SOA has so much to offer the students. "As a mentor, we all think the students are so lucky! Back when we were students, we traveled around the world to study - to America and Europe. Nowadays, students don't even need to go abroad; maestros come to Shanghai to teach. Not only one-on-one, but in small groups!"
Besides the extremely wide variety of repertoire, the SOA also focuses a lot on targeted chamber music training, aiming to reach professional orchestras' needs. Ying-Chieh Lan, a first year SOA student from Taiwan said, "I can't find another place in Asia for this kind of training."
Doug He, the Executive Director of the SOA says, "We have achieved a 'Shanghai Model' in young orchestral musician training. In general, it is successful. Our graduates are widely welcomed by professional orchestras, which is a strong testimony." Amazingly, almost all graduates from the past five years are professional musicians in orchestras in China or overseas; many of them are principals or associate principals.
After five years of rapid growth, the SOA enters its second five-year plan - "a new departure." "Looking back on the past five years, we have accumulated a lot of very valuable experiences, such as focusing on orchestral experience training," said Doug He. "Education requires persistence and innovation. During the second five-year period, we will continue to explore based on a successful foundation. For example, we will create more performance opportunities with domestic orchestras, encouraging students to join orchestras all over China, so they receive firsthand feedback on the needs of professional orchestras. On top of that, we will also explore a linked institutional system, hopefully to enrich the 'Shanghai Model' and to make our young musicians more competitive."