Chinese organization provides $1 million grant to establish center at Bell Street
MURFREESBORO — Thanks to a $1 million grant, the latest expansion of Middle Tennessee State University’s relationship with Chinese educators is music to their ears.
Amid the sound of traditional Chinese music and the sipping of three types of tea, MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee Tuesday (March 24) announced receipt of the grant for the creation of a Chinese music and cultural center on university property.
The funding is provided by Hanban Confucius Institute in Beijing, an organization sponsored by China’s education ministry that oversees more than 440 institutes in 120 countries.
“We will promote music as a vital element in education and cultural understanding,” said McPhee. “And it will become another component of our extremely successful international outreach, which has earned MTSU recognition as a leader in global studies.”
Dr. Du Wei, president of Hangzhou Normal University, MTSU’s sister institution, quoted the ancient Chinese sage Confucius, who said “Education primarily starts from poetry and ends with music.”
Du said he has proposed to McPhee the creation of a Chinese center of American studies at Hangzhou and is prepared to begin discussions immediately.
McPhee said that Du, a violinist himself, has been enthusiastic about the idea of a music center since the two men met in Beijing in December 2013.
The 3,200-square-foot center, which is expected to open within the next 12-18 months, will be located in the former Middle Tennessee Medical Center building on Bell Street. Plans call for it to include a museum of traditional and modern Chinese instruments and musical materials.
In addition, the center will showcase instruments from each of China’s national ethnicities. It will be the hub of a local and regional outreach program that will include performances in communities and area schools and a website with related resources.
MTSU will hire an ethnomusicologist, an educator who studies music in the context of its culture, to serve as the center’s director. Under the College of Liberal Arts and its School of Music, courses involving Chinese music will be developed.
McPhee praised the contributions from MTSU’s Center for Popular Music and departments of Recording Industry and Electronic Media Communication in the College of Mass Communication for their assistance in developing the center’s concept.
McPhee said the center will “complement and expand” the cultural services now offered through MTSU’s Confucius Institute, which promotes understanding of Chinese language and culture and serves as a resource for businesses, universities and communities.
MTSU’s relationship with Hangzhou Normal University began in 2010 with the opening of the institute. In May 2014, representatives of the two schools announced a five-year, $500,000 extension of the relationship through 2020.
At the conclusion of the Tuesday’s ceremony, Hangzhou donated the new center’s first instrument, a guzheng. The 21-stringed instrument, which rests on legs much as a steel guitar does and is plucked by a seated musician, dates back to ancient times.
McPhee reciprocated by giving recordings performed and produced by MTSU faculty and students to Du and some of his university’s deans.
“I firmly believe if we learn from each other, there will be mutual understanding, the world will be more peaceful and happier and our young people will be more talented and powerful,” Du said.