Music Children Foundation (MCF) started to bring music to the children of one district of Hong Kong. These children come from the marginalized population of new immigrants, families living in subdivided or partition flats (a particular problem in land-poor Hong Kong), grassroots families, and ethnic minorities. In a wealthy city, it’s often difficult for those with little money to be part of what goes on around them.Everyone’s agreed that bringing music into education is a benefit to students. What happens, though, when the price of a music education is beyond the means of the family? Five years ago, Hong Kong’s
Recently, the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, the largest charity in the city, threw their support behind the MCF, permitting them to expand their program. This year, the MCF operates in 6 districts in Kowloon, and will expand to 8 districts next year. This year they have 981 students and by this time next year, they hope to have doubled that number. The Jockey Club wants to raise the number to over 4,000 with their support.
The MCF’s Sprout Programme starts at age 1 with music play groups and music appreciation classes and covers children of kindergarten age (up to age 6). Next, the Fruit Program runs from ages 6-12 and provides courses and activities in music theory, practice and performance, including instrument and music knowledge classes, music appreciation workshops, ensemble training, and choir training. The students do public performances and the MCF provides parenting support and family engagement activities.
The last two items might be a surprise: parenting support and family activities. Yet, without active family involvement, education isn’t at its best. The MCF visits its children at home, and brings a social worker with them to make sure that not only the child but also the family is being best served by the city. The MCF facilities are also a place of refuge for the children – sometimes home can be too small for all the people there and children can go to their MCF for both a place to practice and for an ear to listen to them.
Behind this innovative program are two sisters, Monique Pong-Wu and Annike Pong. Both are graduates of the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, as are many of the MCF teachers. Chairman of their Board of Governors is Sheryl Lee, who brings her experience as an international pianist to her leadership role.
We spoke with Ms. Lee about the Foundation and what they have been able to achieve. In the students, she notes that they develop confidence and, as they work in ensembles, their teamwork comes to the fore. Their self-respect also grows, not only in terms of their music abilities but also in terms of their families, since the program believes the families are an integral part of the education process.
In addition to learning an instrument, trips are also taken to performances. For many of these students, this may be the first time they’ve been to a performance, given their personal financial restraints. Hong Kong has a number of symphonic orchestras, including the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, and the Hong Kong City Chamber Orchestra, in addition to the numerous solo and ensemble recitals that take place all over the city, so there are many opportunities for the MCF students to grow their music. Graduates of the programme are encouraged to return and help the younger students, thus providing a wonderful continuity once they age out of the MCF.
Music can be a lifetime gift and the Music Children Foundation provides a needed point of access for the populations they serve. Often the ways for children to develop can be indirect and giving these underserved groups access to a skill that brings them pride in their accomplishments can make so much else in life easier.