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The Hailun Music Center in Ningbo provides the model for an ambitious new education network with affiliate stores located all across China.
Hailun Music Center
Rising Chinese piano maker develops nationwide lesson
program with input from revered European educators

Hailun had plenty to be proud of at the recent Music China convention in Shanghai. It showcased a new concert grand piano in its flagship Vienna series, a new comprehensive line of acoustic guitars, and its recently unveiled digital iPiano, designed for a range of teaching applications. But Hailun’s biggest news wasn’t about a product at all; it was about a hugely ambitious music education initiative sure to raise the brand’s profile in China’s exploding piano market (with 400,000 acoustic pianos sold annually) and make a significant contribution to the quality of young players’ introduction to music making. Representing an enormous investment of time and resources, the complex, multifaceted program is spearheaded by Vice President Sandra Gu, daughter-in-law of company founder and Chairman Hailun Chen.

The program is based at the beautiful new Hailun Music Center in Ningbo, near the company’s main piano factory. Occupying some 6,500 square feet, the facility offers both group and individual lessons in piano, violin, clarinet, and guitar. A separate play area is dedicated to elementary music education á la Kindermusik to foster musical interest, sensibility, and creativity in children as young as six months.

In the second major component of the initiative, the Hailun Music Center in Ningbo serves as a model school for the company’s network of some 160 licensed music education centers located in Hailun dealer stores throughout China. Each is equipped with a digital piano classroom, and lessons are offered to kids as young as four years old. These Hailun-branded schools can be identified by the company’s increasingly familiar logo, since Hailun recently adopted the company’s U.S. logo for both Chinese and Western markets.

The program’s most progressive feature is its development of a Hailun-branded system of music education for the Chinese domestic market. It encompasses pedagogy, teaching materials, and operational standards for the entire network. Many of the Ningbo Music Center’s teacher/mentors were recruited from Europe, primarily the Music & Performing Arts University (MDW) in Vienna, Austria. Considered one of the top music and arts universities in Europe, MDW sends its professors to Ningbo to train Elementary Music Program (EMP) team members to monitor and ensure the quality of their knowledge and teaching skills. The full course of study comprises 18 two-week modules of pedagogical training by MDW professors, followed by three months of practice in daily teaching for each participant. One of the Center’s top students has completed more than one-and-a-half years of training.

Gu’s vision for the program addresses what she considers to be a general deficiency in China’s music education culture. “Especially in areas distant from major cities and cultural centers,” she says, “while there is an abundance of highly proficient musicians graduating from universities, there is a lack of pedagogical standards. If you play well, you can easily find a lot of students seeking lessons in a teacher’s home. But many parents here don’t have the background in music to assess the value of that teaching. So what I want to do is to import the pedagogy from Europe, where teachers must have a teaching diploma before they can teach. I want to promote this model in China as well. The main idea is to fully develop the pedagogy in our model school and then distribute it to all our music education centers.”

Hailun’s schools will make extensive use of its new iPiano, which can record and assess different aspects of the player’s performance. The display of the student’s performance can also be shared with a remote teacher, a capability that Hailun will continue to develop. Minimally invasive on an otherwise normal Hailun acoustic piano, the iPiano system features optical sensing, and most of its wiring is hidden within the instrument’s cheek block. And thanks to Hailun’s recent adoption of an open MIDI format, iPiano’s integrated software allows it to work with a wide range of educational and entertainment applications.

Hailun is producing three digital piano models for home use and two for group lesson applications that offer capabilities designed specifically for evaluating, correcting, and sharing the player’s performance. (Digital models come with a full-value rebate if the owner opts to upgrade to a Hailun acoustic within a year.)

To captivate younger players, Hailun has partnered with Disney to adorn some of its teaching materials with some of the entertainment giant’s most beloved graphics. Using an engaging curriculum created in-house, all lessons are conveyed with a playful, no-pressure teaching style.

“The United States is a much more mature market when it comes to music education,” says Hailun USA CEO Basilios Strmec. “We have schools and established paths for gaining knowledge. In China, they don’t. The need for these opportunities is huge. And the potential...millions of kids are hungry for it.”

Calling the United States’ approach to music education “the model for the world,” Gu suggests that developing and refining China’s approach will be essential to the continued growth of its piano industry, saying, “We believe that in China, the educational market is the key.”


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