The Department of Music at CUHK is the oldest degree-granting music department in Hong Kong, having introduced the BA in Music in 1965. For decades, its graduates have held leading positions in Hong Kong and abroad. The programme provides instruction in the study of music as a humanistic discipline and offers extensive opportunities for the development of practical skills. Its goals are: (1) To equip graduates with an informed understanding of music and musical traditions by fostering the development of musicianship, creativity, and transferable skills, including critical thinking; (2) To offer a well-balanced curriculum that provides training in both professional skills and the scholarly study of music; and (3) Through the practice of music, to cultivate in our graduates a sense of social responsibility and a broad cultural awareness.
The Department boasts an international teaching team with a wide range of expertise. Its facilities include one of the finest recital halls in Hong Kong, as well as library and archival collections that are among the most important in Asia. It has its own symphony orchestra, wind orchestra, and choir, in addition to ensembles devoted to Chinese music, jazz, early music, and new music.
Finding Your Muse
What are the few things you would bring to a deserted island?
If you can’t live one day without music, it wouldn’t be surprising to find your favourite musical instrument on your checklist.
Though playing music all day on a tropical island under the starry sky may sound wonderful, few will disagree that it would be much more inspiring to perform and study music with like-minded classmates in an institution with state-of-the-art facilities, abundant research resources and to be taught by of some of most renowned music scholars in the region.
John Lai, an enthusiast in music theory and alumnus who graduated in 2014, explained the reason he decided to study music at CUHK,
‘CUHK’s Department of Music has a long-standing tradition in the professional training of music performers and researchers. I was particularly impressed by its faculty members, who are world-class scholars with outstanding achievements in academic research. I was introduced to the world of music in ways I would never have imagined.’
Before studying music at CUHK, John only focused on Western music from the Renaissance period to that of the early 20th century. During the undergraduate trainings, however, he was exposed to a diverse curriculum with topics spanning a wide range of chronological, geographic and theoretical frameworks—including music from the ancient to contemporary era, as well as Chinese, Western and world music. In addition to education, the Department is also strong in research in the following areas:
- Historical musicology
- Music theory
‘The Department of Music has its own library with a variety of audio-visual materials, as well as special collections for Chinese music and Hong Kong composers. It is hoped that our students would make use of these resources to cultivate an open mind for diversity and develop a comprehensive understanding of music’, remarked Prof. Cheong Wai-ling.
Prof. Cheong and Prof. Mak Su-yin, two faculty members specializing in music theory, were John’s supervisors for his final year independent study. According to John, the experience of working on a research project became the most valuable memory of his undergraduate years.
‘Both Professor Cheong and Professor Mak allowed me the freedom to choose a research topic I was interested in and offered me invaluable insight and critical comments. It was my first time to conduct a full-scale research on my own and the experience had encouraged me to further my study in the graduate school,’ said John.
John was among many music graduates of CUHK who pursue postgraduate studies in music-related subjects. Many of them are admitted to prestigious institutions in the US, UK, and Europe.
In addition to the studying of music as a humanistic discipline, students are given the opportunities to advance their music making skills by taking performance lessons with top musicians in Hong Kong.
Numerous activities in the department and Chung Chi College also offer hands-on experience of music making, such as ensemble training, concert organization, and other community projects. Through the ensemble-in-residence programme, students can have their work rehearsed and performed by a different professional group every year.
‘These co-curricular learning opportunities enable our students to gain first-hand understanding of performing, writing and arranging music, rehearsing with performers, and communicating with the audience,’ said Professor Cheong.
In terms of overseas opportunities, the Department has established formal exchange partnership with the music department of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the US. Students can choose to participate in some department ensembles or overseas tours, such as the Chung Chi Wind Orchestra and the Chinese Music Ensemble.
The Department also fosters connections with industry professionals and regularly brings in alumni working in prominent positions across the industries to deliver talks and advice sessions, so that students can better understand how their own skills can contribute to the society in real-world situations.
The small programme size fosters a close relationship between students and the faculty. Every student is assigned an academic advisor, from whom he/she can seek academic and career advice.
To better prepare themselves for their future careers, many of the music students at CUHK study minor programmes in foreign languages, psychology, or anthropology which would be helpful if they plan to study overseas, pursue a career in music therapy or continue their study in ethnomusicology.
‘With four study streams in performance, composition, research, and pedagogy, the undergraduate programme in music at CUHK has been nurturing local leaders in music industries, research, education, and other professions that require in-depth musical knowledge. For decades, our graduates have been contributing to the world stage as performers, composers, producers, art administrators, music therapists, and educators, among others,’ remarked Professor Cheong.
This year, the Department will continue to enroll 30 new students who are proficient in Chinese, English and at least one musical instrument. According to Professor Cheong, the programme looks for students ‘who are eager to explore various disciplines of music and music of different genres and traditions’.
If you are planning to become part of the cohorts, alumnus John has a few encouraging words for you:
‘Don’t be afraid to follow your dream. If music is your passion, the next four years of studying music at CUHK will truly be an invaluable and unforgettable learning experience in your life’.
Published: Summer 2017
Last Updated: Summer 2020