When considering international school options for your child, the music program offered may not be at the top of your list of priorities. However, music is proven to have significant benefits for cognitive learning and development which are often under-valued. We hear from Shrewsbury International School why music matters and learn more about their music program in Hong Kong.
What is Shrewsbury’s philosophy on musical education?
John Moore has presided over the music department of Shrewsbury School in the UK for 30 years, playing a key role in developing the school’s impressive academic and performance offerings in music. We spoke with him on his recent trip to Hong Kong, which saw him bring the school’s first Music Tour here, for the opening of Shrewsbury International School Hong Kong. The students performed at the opening, as well as at a gala concert in St. John’s Cathedral.
John said he was excited at the possibilities of sharing the school’s philosophy of musical education here in the city, with the local campus catering to students aged three to 11 years. He was enthusiastic, too, about the way music will be part of the curriculum in Hong Kong – and about the facilities, which include a 500-seat concert hall and a 130-seat recital hall. “What I hope we can do is stimulate the interest of the young generation of Hong Kong and expat students to look at the possibilities of learning an instrument,” he says.
How can music benefit students?
In the UK, where Shrewsbury offers a senior school, students study instruments to diploma standard, with regular opportunities for performance. Being comfortable in public is a character trait valued at Shrewsbury. “There’s a lot of emphasis on public speaking and performance,” John says. “It’s not just about special occasions, it’s the notion of being comfortable with yourself in public.”
This experience with performance is just one way music can be beneficial for young people. “I don’t think there’s any question in my mind that music has the most major benefits,” he says. “If you’re learning an instrument, you’re learning an enormous amount of calculation, you’re learning physical coordination, your brain is analysing symbols, which it has to translate first into motor activity and then into emotional activity.
“In an age where technology is inevitable in its increase and proliferation, the fact is, when you take up an instrument that has to be mastered, it’s about developing a skill of concentration, of emotional reaction, and also of judgment. You have to think for yourself in the process – there’s nothing like learning an instrument that will do it for you.”
Looking to the future
Hong Kong principal Ben Keeling says Shrewsbury has a long-held record of success within musical performance and the performing arts. “For many generations, students have been nurtured to the very highest level,” he says. “Our schools share a very special relationship and our community is enriched by the warmth of our connection. We look forward to fostering even closer association, and then to the arrival of our first students in Shropshire. It’s with great anticipation that I can say ‘We are Shrewsbury’.”
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This article first appeared in the December/January 2018/19 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue