Musician dedicated to passing down legacy of folk music

By Zhang Liping and Wu Jin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, July 11, 2017
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Wu Yuemeng has dedicated to passing down legacy of folk music. [Photo:]

In spite of Wu Yuemeng's prestigious status in folk music, he has never abandoned his role as a grass-root educator, resolving to carry on the legacy of Chinese traditional wind instruments among the younger generation.

As a director of arts in the Primary School Affiliated to Tsinghua University [Beijing], Wu has spent 18 years demonstrating the unique charm of such instruments to his pupils.

The instrument Wu plays is often called the Tartar pipe that evolved from one played in Persia more than 2,000 years ago.

The exotic instrument spread in China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region before penetrating the central part of the country. The performance style has been frequently explored and modified over time. Because of the complicated skills required to play it, Wu is one of less than 10 musicians who have mastered the Tartar pipe in modern times.

His dexterous performance of the ancient instrument could stem from his hometown in rural northern Hebei Province, where wind instruments are popular for ceremonial occasions, such as, weddings or funerals. It has been listed as a State-level intangible cultural heritage.

Inheriting the skills of his paternal grandfather, a renowned local wind instrument player, Wu has been absorbed in traditional music since his childhood.

In 1988, he was admitted to the Affiliated High School of the China Conservatory of Music (CCM) and seven years later he was enrolled as a freshman in the Department of Instrumental Music of CCM.

Since his graduation in 1999, he has worked in the same primary school for 18 consecutive years and sent many students onto the stage.

Shortly after he secured his school post, he organized an orchestra composed of the Sheng, a traditional Chinese musical pipe, Tartar pipe, Chinese flute and percussion instruments. The unprecedented endeavor only attracted about 20 students in the beginning, and progressed only with some difficultly.

However, Wu did not give up. Thanks to his perseverance, regardless of many twists and turns, the orchestra started to grow and attract increasing attention. In 2001, his band staged a performance at the Mong Man Wai Concert Hall in Tsinghua University.

The size of the orchestra kept growing. In 2005, it recruited several more students for a new section of suona horns. At the same time, it organized a delegation comprising more than 40 pupils to stage a show at the first Hong Kong Chinese Culture Festival, receiving wide acclaim.

In 2006, it claimed first place for large-sized orchestras in a music contest organized for pupils in Haidian District, Beijing, and three consecutive top prizes respectively during Student Art Festivals held in the capital in the following years.

In 2011, Wu and his students headed for Rome for a performance on tour to mark the Year of Chinese Culture. In ensuing years, the orchestra visited South Korea, Singapore, Switzerland, Malaysia, France, the United States and Egypt to perform for cultural exchanges.

Under the strenuous efforts of Wu and his teammates in school, the orchestra has progressed into a large band consisting of numerous folk music instruments, such as, pipa, ruan, erhu and dulcimers. The band has risen to fame and enjoyed high prestige as a result of the big concerts it has hosted.

The success of the orchestra is inseparable from Wu's dedication to training young musicians, guiding them to appreciate the beauty of folk music while encouraging them to learn at least one Western musical instrument to broaden their vision and sharpen their skills.

By recruiting more intuitively-talented young performers, Wu always spreads the knowledge of folk music during parent-teacher meetings, where parents are often inspired and develop immense interest in the various undertakings Wu promotes.

He is looking forward to more cultural exchange programs with a diversity of countries to be organized for the students involved in learning folk music and resolving to spread its charms abroad.

He said education at the primary level can bring children to understand folk music more profoundly, enabling them to pass on the torch of tradition to later generations.

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