Music Education in Shanghai

MSU plays key role in scholarly exchange with Chinese institutions.

Cynthia Taggart and Mitchell Robinson with the music education faculty of Shanghai Normal University
Cynthia Taggart lecturing at Shanghai Normal University.
Shanghai Normal University, founded in 1954. Shanghai, China.
Front gate of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

Two scholars, advocates, and teachers of music education from Michigan State University compared notes and shared expertise on the value of music in K-12 education with counterparts in China during a recent six-day trip to the Chinese mainland.

Music Education Associate Professor Mitch Robinson and Professor Cynthia Taggart visited Shanghai Normal University and Shanghai Conservatory of Music in May 2015 as part of a new partnership between the two renowned institutions and the MSU College of Music.

“As people who teach teachers, we want to continue to have a broad world view,” says Robinson, also the chair of music education. “It’s beneficial for MSU to make these kinds of connections and to learn about how music is taught in other countries.”

Apart from cultural and language differences, both Robinson and Taggart say they were struck by the similarities that the schools in China and the U.S. shared in terms of their philosophy and approach to teaching music.

“Teachers around the world are challenged by many of the same issues,” Taggart says. “It was refreshing to talk with our Chinese counterparts and to realize we’re not alone.”

Robinson and Taggart facilitated sessions for the 100 or more students attending the university. Robinson led discussions on assessment and evaluation practices, while Taggart focused on early childhood music education. The two also met with Chinese faculty members at both institutions to explore bringing Chinese educators to MSU for similar workshops, as well as future educational exchanges of MSU and Chinese students. 

“It could be very enriching and eye opening for our students to experience first-hand that we share similar concerns about education with people around the world,” Taggart says. “The world has definitely become a much smaller place.”

The most recent trip was the first for Robinson and Taggart and among several that College of Music professors have made to China to share their expertise. The two accompanied College of Music Dean James Forger, Professor of Piano Deborah Moriarty, and Associate Professor of Violin Dmitri Berlinsky as part of the ongoing exploration of artistic, educational, and scholarly exchanges between MSU and the Shanghai University and Conservatory.

“MSU is proud of our music education area — arguably one of the strongest programs of its kind in the United States,” says James Forger, dean of the College of Music. “Extending our collaboration and partnerships is increasingly important and growing our relationships with colleges in Shanghai is exciting indeed.” 

Robinson reiterated the benefits of the partnership for MSU faculty and students as well as for the larger educational community. He and Taggart also agreed that the exceptional hospitality of their Chinese hosts set the tone for future exchanges.

“It’s extremely beneficial for us to come back to Michigan and to share our experiences as we advocate for music education in K-12 schools,” Robinson says. “These exchanges truly reinforce that music is part of the human experience, and that it’s an important, critical part of a child’s whole education.”

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