Happy music classrooms to be distributed to Xinjiang

Making music for rural children's ears

Despite having a love of music, pupils at primary schools run by the charity Hope in China's impoverished rural areas are unlikely to get lessons in the subject, according to a survey.

Ulrich Walker (left), chairman and CEO of Daimler Northeast Asia, receives a donation plaque from Zhou Changkui, secretary of the Central Committee of the Youth League Secretariat, at the launch ceremony of the Mercedes-Benz Inspiring the Future Project Hope Happy Music Classroom Program held in Beijing at the end of last month. Provided to China Daily

But that may be about to change, thanks to an initiative by MercedesBenz called future Project Hope Happy Music Classroom Program.

The program, funded to the tune of 4.3 billion yuan, aims to furnish proper music classrooms in 125 Hope schools and bring regular and standard music education to more than 40,000 students across China.

It will equip the schools with proper music instruments and teaching facilities, which include electric pianos, televisions, DVD players and desktop audio systems. Percussion bands will be established in those schools and they can receive brand new uniforms to be worn at special performances.

Meanwhile, school teachers and principals will receive proper training. A series of supplementary educational materials, such as CD-ROMs and staves for songs recommended to Hope school and the theme song of Project Hope Happy Music, will be offered.

In addition, Mercedes-Benz will subsidize the development of a contest in schools called Happy Rural Singing Concert - Mercedes-Benz Loves Music. Winners will get rewards.

The 125 Happy Music Classrooms to be sponsored by the German company may be distributed among 23 provinces, including Qinghai, Sichuan, Guizhou and Hainan, Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang autonomous regions as well as Chongqing municipality.

The company said that its more than 140 dealers, mass customers and employees will be invited to join as volunteers to conduct music lessons at these schools.

"Music has the special power to move and enrich lives, and it is especially meaningful to young children. With the launch of the Happy Music Classroom Program in cooperation with the China Youth Development Foundation, we hope to provide children in remote areas with proper music education that they have never received before," said Klaus Maier, president and chief executive officer of Mercedes-Benz (China) Ltd.

A survey conducted by Beijing Rises Information Consulting Co Ltd shows that 79.2 percent of Hope schools lack proper music classrooms. Nearly 80 percent of all Hope schools do not have trained music teachers, and almost half of all the students surveyed are unable to hum the seven music notes accurately because of a lack of proper education. With the severe shortage of music teaching aids, students are deprived of the opportunity to develop their music skills and interest, and could only learn simple singing during classes, the survey revealed.

Hope schools are the fruit of Project Hope, which was initiated by China Youth Development Foundation in 1988 to raise social funds to set up primary schools in China's poverty-stricken regions. So far, the foundation has received social donations of 6.03 billion yuan to set up 16,355 Hope schools and supplementary facilities, including computer classrooms, sports venues, libraries and music education facilities. It has supported 3.49 million students and trained more than 60,000 rural teachers.

Tu Meng, secretary-general of the China Youth Development Foundation, said: "Music plays an important role in the development phases of a child. What we advocate as part of Project Hope is for children from rural areas to experience the same kind of joy that music brings to their peers in the urban areas. More importantly, all children deserve a happy childhood as well as the ability to cultivate their creativity, interest and appreciation in arts."

Sustained efforts

The Inspiring the Future Project Hope Happy Music Classroom Program comes under the Mercedes-Benz Star Fund, officially launched on June 30 with start-up capital of 30 million yuan, in partnership with the China Youth Development Foundation.

It is the luxury automaker's largest start-up sum for a charity fund and provides an integrated platform for its five core corporate social responsibility (CSR) pillars of environmental protection, education, music, arts and sports, as well as charity and disaster relief programs.

The company has carried out a string of CSR programs in China. The Green Green Legacy Program is one example. The program is devoted to biological and heritage conservation in southwestern China.

In partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Mercedes has so far invested 14 million yuan to support the preservation of the Sichuan giant panda sanctuaries, Lushan Mountain, Dujiangyan and Mount Qingcheng. Efforts include establishing infrastructure, environmental monitoring and site protection education. The program is a long-term commitment, said a Mercedes-Benz statement.

Sales of the company's cars were up 177 percent last month to 13,700 units, compared with global growth of 13.2 percent. The brand's worldwide sales for the first six months of 2010 were up 15.2 percent from a year earlier to 556,700 units. Meanwhile, It delivered nearly 120 percent more cars in China, a total of 60,500.

Maier said: "While we enjoy good business success, good CSR practices can certainly help to build brands and add value to the company."

Mercedes-Benz continues to bring top range products and technology into the market. It sees CSR as one of the company's corporate strategic pillars in China and says it will continue to put sustained efforts into it, said Maier.

"At the end of the day, engaging in CSR is not to help sales. Rather, it is our way of giving back to society, especially in China, where we have been given the opportunity to grow and achieve," the president and CEO added.

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