The future of Classical Music: China or Venezuela

Nearly every week there is an article about Gustavo Dudamel, which eventually leads back to Venezuela's il Sistema, the programme devoted to teaching young kids to play classical music rather than belong to gangs and such. Today, there was an interesting article in Asia Times by Spengler about China and how much it is spending to raise a nation of classical musicians. 'Thirty-six million Chinese children study piano today, compared to only 6 million in the United States,' is just one of the many tidbits from this article.

It goes on to talk about how influential music is in other disciplines, like medicine and law. There are bit tossed in about how studying music raised the IQ level of children, and how much Chinese parents are willing to sacrifice inorder for their kids to get a musical education. All of this culminating what will someday be a musical force, with more and more musicians reaching virtuoso calibre from Chinese origin.

And yet, right now, most of these students ultimately come to the US to finalize their studies. The best music schools in the world (according to the article) reside in the US. But how long will this last?

Hollywood still dominates the movie industry, but more and more top qualities movies are being made on foreign shores. Bollywood and Hong Kong films are producing films that occasionally are top money earners, above Hollywood films. The computer industry is still dominated by Silicon Valley, but most of the computer parts and much of the programming, technical support and brain trust is now over seas (in India and China). Add to the economic growth of China (compared to the coming recession in the US) and eventually China will be not just a world power because it has 1/3 of the world population, but because that population will be where all the big thinking is done.

Music education is only one aspect of the growing problem. But continuing to short change music education, funneling money away from schools because of budget problems (or desire to wage a war) will ultimately lead to more budget problems as we'll be more and more dependant on Asia, not just for raw goods and electronic gadgets, but for our artists as well.


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