When Paula Pang first founded the Chinese Music Development Association in 1998 with Kevin Yuen, she hoped to bring the sounds of traditional Chinese music to Calgary — while passing it on to future generations of Chinese youth.
Today, the organization — the only one of its kind in Calgary — is still doing exactly that through lessons, lectures, exams and competitions that give children and adults the opportunity to learn about genuine Chinese traditional music. For some, it’s also a chance to hang on to part of their roots.
Students of the Association have the option to play a variety of instruments including the guzheng — also known a Chinese zither — which is a plucked string instrument dating back 2,500 years.
Eight-year-old Karen first learned to play the guzheng when she was just three years old and living in China. She now continues her practice in Calgary and is considered one of the best in her age group.
Pang says it’s important that her students gain an understanding of the difference between Western instruments and Chinese instruments, not just to remember their roots but also so they can be successful at the guzheng.
Pang even took some of her students to Hong Kong in 2016 to attend an international competition so that her students could get a feel for how the guzheng is played in China.
Located in the Northeast area of Calgary, the modest size space of the Chinese Music Development Association accommodates lessons for about 15 students per session. On the weekends the students come in waves from morning to afternoon depending on their age, skill and instrument.
Since the founding of the association, Pang says the lessons have grown in popularity — exactly what she hoped for when she co-founded the Association so many years ago.
- By Amy Tucker and Mary Yohannes