|Music education unites Korea's youths|
|Date||December 06, 2011|
Music education programs have been springing up around the country, positively transforming the lives of underprivileged youths.
The Green Umbrella Dream Orchestra, founded last October in Mokpo, Jeollanam-do (South Jeolla Province) under the direction of the Green Umbrella Children’s Fund, is made up of local third- to fifth-graders from orphanages and low-income households. Having started out with 35 members, the orchestra has grown over the past year to a total 82 members. November 23 marked a milestone for the group, with a concert at Shinan Beach Hotel in Mokpo that showcased pieces by Mozart and Haydn as well as traditional songs from the Korean folk repertoire.
Prior to joining the Green Umbrella Dream Orchestra, many members had never seen musical instruments before, let alone had the opportunity to play them. Despite this lack of experience, the students met faithfully for three-hour rehearsals twice a week at a local elementary school slated for closure at the end of 2011.
News of the Green Umbrella Dream Orchestra traveled outside Mokpo for the first time through the Internet. After learning of their activities online, Benjamin Whitcomb, a professor of cello at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and public affairs envoy for the US Embassy in Korea, took an active interest in the group. Expressing his desire to help coach the students, he arranged a master class as part of the November program.
In 2012, the Green Umbrella Dream Orchestra will perform for patients at hospitals, senior citizens who live alone, and children in regional childcare centers with the aim of sharing the power of music.
Programs such as these, which have been dubbed the Korean version of “El Sistema,” continue to receive enthusiastic positive reception. El Sistema is the name of a music education program that got its start in Venezuela in 1975 and has since gained worldwide attention for drawing over 250,000 young people from impoverished backgrounds, who had been vulnerable to drug abuse and crime, into the arena of music education and performance.
Using the success of El Sistema as a model, the Ministry of Welfare launched an initiative in 2008 to support the social-emotional development of children. Their program focuses on providing music education to children 8 to 13 years old, from households with a below average income, who show indications of depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and various anxiety disorders.
Approximately 78,000 students in 97 municipalities have received lessons in instruments such as the violin and cello, along with counseling and other opportunities to develop their social skills. With the government providing 180,000 of the 200,000 won monthly tuition, families are able to enroll their children in these programs for only 20,000 won per month.
In 2010, in coordination with the Korea Arts and Culture Education Service, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism implemented the “Orchestras-of-Dreams” program, which has since created community-based orchestra programs in nine regions throughout the country. With the program’s expansion this past year, a support center was established for the development of exchange programs, curriculum, and learning materials.
On October 25, the Korea Arts and Culture Education Service agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with El Sistema to secure the support of the Venezuelan organization in training leaders for Korea’s music education programs and providing a variety of learning materials and resources. The “Orchestras-of-Dreams” program is set to expand to 20 regions by 2012.
Korea.net Staff Writer