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International Music Exchange

A virtual curriculum designed for students in US and China to exchange ideas and music in response to the rise of COVID-19 hate crimes.

Photo of Lucy Yao
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I am a.....

  • Teacher

Tell us about your idea

With rising tensions and hate crimes on Asian Americans in the US, we need to start turning the tide over now.  We need to start fostering relationships and to encourage empathy in our school systems. There is no language more universal and accessible than music. As a pianist and educator growing up as a second generation Chinese-American, my mission is to start a partnership between high school music students living in China and the US. 

Over the course of a semester, students will discuss which songs they grew up with, as well as songs and pieces that are meaningful to their culture. You don't need to know how to play the song beforehand! Just bring a passion for learning and for music.

Together, students will learn about each other's cultures and the performance practices in their respective regions. All genres of music are welcome as long as it is important to them. 

What is the goal?

To learn about each other's culture and see what role music has in their lives.

To broaden awareness of genres outside of Western Classical and Pop. To discuss how certain songs make each other feel and to explore the music theory behind it. 

To learn to play songs together, remotely, with unfamiliar teaching methods, whether it's a music notation system or performance practice.

To grow with one another, not apart.

The format will take place as weekly studio classes, where students share music that they are working on, a piece that they like, or an idea and seek feedback from their peers. There will be discussions led by a facilitator to explore the music theory of what makes each piece so special, lectures given by students and the facilitator on a topic, and an end-of-the-semester virtual concert. 

Music has the power to heal and to bring people together. During the time of COVID-19 when students are limited to learning remotely, this project will give them the opportunity to travel to the other side of the world without leaving their desk and to make valuable friendships and connections that will last a lifetime. 

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

With the increasing use of zoom, it has become normalized to communicate digitally. I want to embrace the use of technology by encouraging remote collaborations in response to COVID-19. We must lean into our circumstances by living the most out of it, and to expand the possibilities of learning by reaching to places that are emotionally and geographically out of reach. There needs to be more discussion between schools across the globe and an exchange of ideas so that there will be less room for misunderstanding and silencing of cultures. We can use technology to travel to almost any part of the world, and we must take the opportunity to be unsure of what may come of it. We need to abandon the idealization of Western Art and Classical Music, like so many of my colleagues and myself have been taught. Instead, educators need the tools to freely learn about other cultures that is not exclusive to the one semester "Non-Western Music Survey" that most Classically trained professional musicians are exposed to. Now is the time to collaborate with other countries because we have so much to learn from them.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

I'm Lucy Yao and I am a pianist and educator living in NYC. I grew up in the states, with almost little to no exposure to Chinese music. I only understood later on in my 20's that my parents chose not to teach me their traditions because they wanted me to assimilate into Western Culture. It broke my heart to see that a culture rich of history and music being erased by my parents solely because of the racism that still exists in the US today.

In the wake of COVID-19, hate crimes and racism has spiked because of the spread of ignorance and hate led by leaders of the country. Our future generation is so important, and we need to foster relationships and a passion for acceptance and empathy in the younger generation. 

Music has the power to speak volumes. I believe that it can bridge the gap between cultures and to give a stepping stone for deeper discussion and to form a community of curious and passionate students leading with a heart-forward mindset. 

A little about me outside of music:

I love bringing people together and have curated concerts, multidisciplinary collaborations, and perform classical and contemporary works on piano, toy piano, and electronics. I am always trying to experiment with mediums to integrate into my work, and challenge myself to "not have any comfort zone". Playing piano has taught me some of the skills I need to be fearless in troubleshooting, improvising, and creative confidence. 

What region are you located in?

  • North America

Where are you located?

I am a pianist and educator and second-generation Chinese-American. I grew up in a predominantly white community and currently am based in NYC and Detroit.


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