Editorial: FHK Music, why?

Hello Hong Kong friends,

Let me introduce myself: my name is Domitille. I am a French mother living in Hong Kong since October 2017. Musician from a young age, I learned piano and music theory in a small neighborhood music school in Lyon (France), very simple, caring and wonderful. Passionate about this instrument, I have over 20 years of piano studies to my credit, and hold my Cycle 3 Piano certificate (French Grade 8 equivalent) and DFE Degree in Music theory obtained at the “Conservatoire de Lyon”. Long after obtaining these diplomas, I became a student of Bruno Robilliard, renowned teacher in Lyon, international concertist, composer and talented improviser.

From the age of 16 (and throughout my studies), instead of babysitting like all my friends, I gave piano lessons to young children. And already at the time I liked the transmission, the wonder of the little ones in front of this immeeeeense keyboard and their enthusiasm when they managed to play their first rhyme at the end of their very first lesson …

If my academic career then led me to more traditional studies (prep school, ESCP business school, career in consulting and entrepreneurship), I have never forgotten this great passion for the piano. I remember during my intense prep school years, I continued to play the piano for up to 2 hours a day to “decompress” … Or even after, during my business school years, I moved twice a year in Europe with my suitcase and my digital piano, hardly financed by my little summer job done for this specific purpose, just after my business school entrance exams.

After my studies and the start of my professional career in Paris, London, and then Hong Kong, my piano continued to be my faithful friend in the evenings and weekends … I played during parties with friends, during weddings, at sunday masses…And piano is still a very big part of my life now. Need to decompress? Hop, I play Beethoven’s Pathetics sonata to let go of all this energy! A little bit of blues ? Fortunately, my piano is there to cheer me up with Chopin’s Fantaisie Impromptue! Need some peace? Let’s go for a quiet Nocturne that will allow me to relax after a big day … Need to escape? I sit down in front of my piano and let go of my fingers, improvising what comes to mind … Music is really magical: it calms, it comforts, it energizes, it feels good!

So, in 2019, when my eldest boy Grégoire turned 6 years old and asked me to “do like mom” and start learning the piano, it was only natural that I looked for a music school in Hong Kong, in the hope he could develop that same passion.

But there it was a bit of a cold shower: in Hong Kong, to learn the piano or any other instrument, there are not a lot of options available for non-cantonese speakers like us: either we call on a home teacher for individual lessons, or we enroll our child in a rare “academy” of music in Central or Aberdeen (that would also offer only individual lessons but in a more structured environment). Then, in the local system, at a more or less rapid pace according to his abilities, the child is strongly encouraged to “pass his grades” (8 in total, the eighth corresponding to French Cycle 3 more or less), which allows him to build a good academic record. Learning music (piano and violin in particular) is indeed a strong argument for entering a good primary or secondary school in Hong Kong, which explains why the piano or the violin are so popular on the island, to the detriment of other instruments. Unfortunately, there are many students but very few enthusiasts: many drop out after a few years … why?

After having discussed it a lot with local teachers and after comparing the local method with the European one which, even if it has shortcomings (who liked music theory in France ???) has served me well, here are my conclusions:

  • Children in Hong Kong learn their instrument in their living room, alone, with their private teacher: no group lessons, not end-of-year concert, no group dynamics to motivate and encourage each other. Finally, this lack of conviviality and emulation can be difficult for young children who will quickly associate “playing their instrument” with “being bored alone”. Obviously, after a year or two of having to train alone every day, they will drop out and prefer football or dancing with their friends!
  • They only learn what is necessary to play their instrument, nothing else! For the piano for example: the keys, the pitches, the rhythms … of the songs they would play. But when they learn a piece by Mozart, who will teach the children who Mozart was, what he brought to music? No one will teach them to open their field of knowledge beyond the simple keyboard! And that’s a huge shortcoming: if we don’t teach the children any musical culture, we don’t help them discover and love the extraordinary world of classical music as a whole. If the child does not learn to like classical music, with adolescence he will turn away completely … and this is why the number of children who give up their instrument at college age in Hong Kong speaks for itself…
  • The music theory taught during instrument classes being basic, they do not learn to really develop their ear by learning intervals, melodic dictations or singing exercises. However, it is from an early age that it is useful to work on one’s ear (and therefore voice) accuracy … when you are an adult, it is immediately more difficult to learn to sing in tune! You add to this that as this basic learning of music theory is integrated into instrument lessons, for every 30-minute instrument lesson, 10 minutes are “eaten” by the learning of music theory. Only 20 minutes are left per week to really improve on the instrument. Result: the child progresses less quickly, it gets harder and he/she can become discouraged more easily.

My conviction is that there are two essential things that should be encouraged while teaching music in Hong Kong: group dynamics and musical culture.

For this reason, I want to help young music lovers: FHK Music in Stanley offers individual instrument lessons accompanied by group lessons in music theory and musical culture, so that students receive a complete education that will make them truly progress, and especially knowing and loving classical music.

I wanted to do it in a simple way, in parallel with my main professional activity, by setting up an organization made up of a team of experienced partner teachers, caring, motivated and sharing my vision of music for children.

Since March 2021, FHK Music offers:

  • Individual at-home piano, violin and singing lessons (30 to 60min / week depending on students’ age and level).
  • Group lessons in music theory and musical culture (one hour / week) compulsory for all students who register for individual instrument lessons. My mission is to make them fun, interesting and educational. It is out of the question to reproduce the boring curriculum of “French” music theory that I knew in my childhood! This does not of course prevent the learning of the essential fundamentals … On the program: courses developed from A to Z by me, allowing students to learn the history of music (from prehistory to the present day), the great composers, the most famous musical pieces, the instruments of the symphonic orchestra, and music theory (pitches, rhythms, exercises to develop the ear). I integrate playlists, films, games, quizzes, tests … tailor-made to make the lessons dynamic and attractive. These group lessons are given at Stanley Market every wednesday afternoon or in Clear Water Bay every tuesday afternoon (in French, with possibility of opening a new slot in English if needed).
  • Fun musical group activities (50 to 60 min / week depending on age), also in Stanley Market: choirs, musical initiation and games, musical awakening and rhymes for toddlers and babies. Objective: to have fun and flourish together, in music!

My greatest joy: when parents tell me that their children have taught them a lot of things in the evening at dinner, after my musical culture class … the whole family benefits from it, it creates a bond and it even makes parents want to get back to the piano or the violin!

And then ? I do not intend to stop there: I am looking for guitar, flute, trumpet, clarinet, drums teachers … to join the team and always offer more choices to children. My dream ? Set up a children’s orchestra in Stanley, because music triggers the best emotions when it’s shared … Maybe soon!

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