Andrea Lyman: Waldorf Music Teacher Training in China

After many months of planning, I had the opportunity in January to travel to Shenzhen, China to present the first session of a full Waldorf music teacher training.   This 3-year program will meet twice a year with sessions running for ten consecutive days in January and October, totaling 360 hours of class time. This comprehensive program will include an in-depth study of anthroposophy, child development, self-transformation of the individual, eurythmy, the arts, movement, the full music curriculum and pedagogy, and more!  As director of this program, I taught the entire first session, but as it continues in the future, the program will include other faculty.

Our first group of students consisted of 23 teachers, musicians, and parents who were eager to learn and know more about Waldorf music education. Students came from all over China, including the northern provinces and Hong Kong. Shenzhen is right on the tip of south China, across Victoria Harbor from Hong Kong, so it has easy access to transportation and cosmopolitan businesses and trade. It is a modern city that is only 30 years old and was created and developed as a high-tech, ‘Silicon Valley’ type of city with industries such as Apple iPhone manufacturing and other large high-tech companies. Surrounded by the water on one side and green hills on the other, the air quality in Shenzhen is quite good for China, and even though it is a young city, it already has 20 million inhabitants!

After only ten years, Waldorf education is growing in China at a wildfire rate!  There are currently 300 kindergartens, ten grade schools, and one high school in China. While technically not legal, these independent schools are being allowed to exist and are being ‘watched’ by the government to see the results. Those involved in the creation of these schools strongly recognize that in order for Waldorf education to flourish and survive into the future, there must be a deep foundation in the understanding of what stands behind this educational approach. There is a high demand for Waldorf schools in China, but because it is so new, it has been a challenge to find enough trained teachers; therefore, teacher-training possibilities are crucial. This is the first comprehensive Waldorf music teacher training in China and one of very few in the world at this time.

Included in our first 10-day session in Shenzhen was an introduction to the 7-string pentatonic children’s lyre. I had carefully packed my Choroi kinderharp in my suitcase, which led to some interesting customs experiences on my journey to Asia.  Several of the security personnel insisted I open the case and play this strange little instrument that they could not identify with the x-ray machines! I would have loved to have had a photo of the agents looking, listening, touching, and smiling at this fascinating, musical oddity! This was my first but not last experience of how eager the people of Asia are to learn about ‘all things Waldorf’ and receive it with full hearts and minds.

At the end of the course in Shenzhen, I flew directly to Manila/Quezon City in the Philippines. While not new in the Philippines, Waldorf education has only been supported by occasional presenters coming to give workshops or short courses. There have been mentions of music in the Waldorf curriculum in other workshops but never any kind of dedicated course such as this. I had been invited to give a five-day (two module) Waldorf music course the first ever in the Philippines. The first module of two days was a general overview of what music is, why it is important to the human being, how it meets the developing child, and the basic spectrum of the music curriculum in Waldorf education. Many parents and mainstream music teachers were in attendance. The second module went more deeply into the curriculum and pedagogy and included many experiential activities. In all, there were 35 participants from all over the Philippine islands in addition to an anthroposophical doctor from India and a new Waldorf music teacher from Singapore.

The day before I began the course in Manila, I was able to visit one of the Waldorf schools in the local area, and I met a woodwork teacher who showed me a pentatonic lyre that he had made. We had some discussion about certain characteristics and qualities of a well made, pedagogically sound lyre a conversation I know will continue and hopefully support healthy lyre work with Waldorf students in this country. There is great interest in the lyre in this part of the world, and I look forward to seeing it develop and grow.

In July, I will be traveling to another part of China to bring music education to an existing Waldorf teacher-training program there. How wonderful it is to see such enthusiasm and earnest striving to nurture and support an educational model that meets children so beautifully.  It is also inspiring to observe how the devoted parents everywhere are willing to do whatever it takes to bring what they feel is right and good for their beloved children even if it means going against the social and political contexts in which they live. No matter where in the world I have traveled and visited Waldorf schools, the essence of reverence and beauty permeates every school with the same sense of conscious commitment and steadfast striving that will carry the light of Waldorf education into the future. What a privilege and joy it is to be a part of this worthy contribution to the evolution of humanity!