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Bard College And A University In China Create A Joint Music Program

Courtesy of Bard College, Peter Aaron '68/Esto

A college in New York with a well-known conservatory is teaming up with a new school of music in China to offer a joint music program. The dean of the music school in China says the approach is entirely different for his country, and the partnership is all the first of its kind for the conservatory.

Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson and Soochow University in Suzhous, China, have agreed to a partnership that will include a joint program between Bard’s Conservatory of Music and Soochow’s School of Music, which will open its doors in the fall. Dr. Robert Martin is director of The Bard College Conservatory of Music, and says it’s the conservatory’s first such program abroad.

He says the partnership also will enhance Bard College’s international presence.

He says he’s been traveling to China for many years, as Bard recruits several students for the Bard Conservatory from mainland China. Enter a connection between a graduate of Bard’s Conservatory and the dean of the nascent Soochow University School of Music, and that’s how the partnership took off. He says the partnership has three components. First:

The dual-degree program is required for Bard Conservatory students, but will be optional at Soochow. That’s because few music students in China have formal training in subjects other than music by the time they get to college. Cellist and conductor Hekun Wu is Dean of Soochow’s School of Music, and says he hopes students ultimately will want to pursue dual degrees.

Wu, who has taught at colleges in the U.S., including at Wellesley College in Massachusetts, says the idea of pursuing a dual degree will likely take time to become harmonious to music students in China, though he thinks having another subject accompany music in higher education is the future.

He notes students in China pursuing music begin such a course of study in primary school. In addition, there is no direct translation for liberal arts.

Bard Conservatory’s Dr. Martin describes the second component of the partnership with Soochow University.

The third component is a student-exchange program.

Hekun Wu says the partnership marks another first for his school, and possibly for all of China, in that professors are being recruited worldwide.

For now, Bard’s Martin is focusing on the new partnership in China before developing any other plans to copy the format elsewhere. And Wu says a successful partnership at Soochow University School of Music could serve as a model for other such partnerships in China, and contribute to a long-term change in higher music education.

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