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Vietnam man teaches music for free during 20 years

Vietnam man teaches music for free during 20 years

Thursday, June 26, 2014, 14:04 GMT+7

An elderly man in northern Vietnam’s Ninh Binh Province has run his own music class for almost 20 years, instilling the love for music among local kids and providing them with free training.

A retired forestry engineer, Pham Quyet Thang, 70, of Hoa Lu District, opened his music class in 1995.

Since then, he has trained well more than 100 students, several of whom have adopted a professional music career.

The music ‘academician’

Thang has nurtured his passion for music since he was in high school in Hanoi. The boy then took evening lessons at the capital’s Vietnam Music School, now the Vietnam National Academy of Music.

However, he chose to study at the University of Forestry and Agriculture in Hanoi, currently the National University of Agriculture, to realize his other dream: becoming a forestry engineer.

As an engineer, who focused on the research and development of “luong” (a bamboo-like plant) and its economic values in northern Thanh Hoa Province, he wrote a song called “Y Cay Luong” (The Meaning of Luong) without actually meaning to do so.

To his greater surprise, the song became an instant “hit” and was chosen as the traditional song in Thanh Hoa’s eight mountainous districts which do intensive “luong” farming.

In 1995, Thang returned to his hometown for his retirement years.

He then came up with the idea of passing on music skills to his grandchildren and relatives to satisfy his nagging aspiration for music.

“Initially, I only had one keyboard and guitar. My neighbors were fascinated by my music and allowed their kids to come over and watch me play. The kids were very eager to learn, so I decided to expand my class,” Thang recalled.     

The number of students rose, with many coming from neighboring provinces, the Central Highlands and even Laos.

He also allowed needy students to stay at his home for as many months as they wish.

Thang’s class, which does not charge any tuition at all, is placed in a large garden.

It is open to anyone interested in music. Though most of his students are elementary students, older students and even men in their 70s and 80s also join the class, located in Ninh My Commune.

“My class is open at almost any time during the whole week, students can come and leave at their own will. Kids can even wear casually to my class,” the elderly teacher shared with a smile.

He has traveled to many provinces to collect used musical instruments and fix them at home.

Schools and individuals also sent in their instruments.

Thang’s “academy” currently boasts 16 keyboards, 12 violins, seven pianos, and a clutch of guitars.

He also compiled a simplified music theory book which is suitable for his students’ levels. The “academy” is divided into five rooms, and Thang and another teacher take turns to give each student a one-hour tutorial.

When the class is overcrowded, students practice under the shade of the trees.

The other teacher is Nguyen Van Boi, Thang’s former colleague in the forestry area.

Boi lived in Thanh Hoa Province, some 50km from Thang’s hometown. Intrigued by his friend’s music class during a visit in 2001, Boi then bought a small house next to Thang’s and has taught at the “academy” since.

Boi is known for his great skills in fixing broken musical instruments and turning them into ones which produce superb music.

According to Nguyen Duc Duc, chair of the Ninh My Commune Learning Promotion Center, Thang’s “academy” has trained some hundreds of students.

Among them, 128 have studied at music universities and colleges across the country, with several of them earning provincial and national music prizes.

A number of Thang’s students now work as music teachers, composers, and performers.

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