Chow Ching Ling – a passionate advocate of arts education.
Chow Ching Ling uses her influence as an internationally-renowned concert pianist to defend arts education and young artists. UNESCO Mozart Prize laureate and Chevalier des arts et de lettres (France), Chow Ching Ling is behind the prestigious Beijing- and Paris-based MIDO Prize. She supports several charities, including a foundation in her native China that helps poor children obtain an arts education. Together with Mstislav Rostropovitch she launched the UNESCO Appeal for the Promotion of Arts Education and Creativity at School in 1999.
You passionately believe in the civilizing influence of all the arts, but music in particular…
Absolutely. Music lessons don’t need to be a preparation for a future profession in music. There is a spiritual dimension to learning to play music, not to mention the qualities it develops like perseverance, discipline and courage which are qualities for life, for becoming a useful citizen. It’s a rigorous training, especially when difficult instruments are involved. It’s the same with the fine arts. You have to produce quality work without cheating. Then you share it with family and friends, which is a great pleasure. Long live art!
Why is your prize called MIDO?
MIDO is the name of a playful, turbulent character in a piano method that I created 15 years ago at the request of the music editor. It uses storytelling to help children enjoy learning the piano. The MIDO piano method was ranked by Le Monde de la Musique as one of the top ten in the world. I believe learning should be a pleasure, not a chore. Music nourishes the heart. If young people are not exposed to it, they go astray or spend their time playing those dreadful electronic games.
You created and lead the Committee for Promotion of Youth, which allows young virtuosi to develop their talents with the greatest masters.
I am the “godmother” of dozens of young adults. I know the difficulties a concert pianist faces so I help them along and give them encouragement. Unfortunately, an arts education often costs money. When I look at all the poor children in the world I always think about the young geniuses among them whose potential will not be realized without an education. I would love to come into a large sum of money and found a school for gifted poor children. This is my dream.
What is the best age for learning an artistic discipline?
There is no age limit. Children, young people, adults, even elderly people can enjoy the benefits of the arts. Through the arts you can attain a state of detachment akin to meditation. When you educate through the arts you try to help people cultivate that peaceful state of mind.
Do you believe arts education has a role in peace-building?
The arts, and music in particular, create harmony. Look at the audience at a concert: for a whole hour their faces are rapt and they are entirely concentrated on the music. There would be fewer wars if everyone could attain that entranced state. Music has a healing effect after tragedies, disasters and illnesses (Mozart in particular). It was music that brought down the Berlin Wall, not politicians. Rostropovitch just took his cello there and played, without words. Music has the power to bring the whole world together. Interview in Chinese