China vs U.S.: We're losing the classical piano culture wars
By: Sarah Bryan Miller
Post-Dispatch Classical Music
"America outspends China on defense by a margin of more than six to one, the Pentagon estimates," reports the Dec. 2 Asia Times. "In another strategic dimension, though, China already holds a six-to-one advantage over the United States. Thirty-six million Chinese children study piano today, compared to only 6 million in the United States. The numbers understate the difference, for musical study in China is more demanding."
That's bad news for the United States, says a writer going by the single name of Spengler. "Watch out, Americans - a generation from now, your kid is going to fetch coffee for a Chinese boss. That is a bit of an exaggeration, of course - some of the bosses will be Indian. Americans really, really don't have a clue what is coming down the pike. The present shift in intellectual capital in favor of the East has no precedent in world history."
Playing classical music makes you smarter, Spengler says, citing the fact that American medical schools accept more applicants who majored in music than any other except pre-med, and the Chinese are urging their children to play it in record numbers.
He praises Chinese pianist Lang Lang, while dinging critics who disparage Lang's sometimes eccentric reading, and notes that promising Asian musicians are studying in the U.S. in ever greater numbers: "American musical education remains the best in the world, the legacy of the European refugees who staffed the great conservatories, and the best Asian musicians come to America to study. Thirty to 40% of students at the top schools are Asian, and another 20 to 30% are Eastern European (or Israeli). There are few Americans or Western Europeans among the best instrumentalists. According to the head of one conservatory, Americans simply don't have the discipline to practice eight hours a day."
Musical discipline and creative thinking carry over into other fields, and Spengler believes that Westerners need to look to our laurels in industry and the military as well as music.
The entire article is worth reading. (External links are viable for a limited time.)