Accordions Worldwide Celebrity Interview, Prof. Li Wei Ming, China
Celebrity Interviews

Auckland, New Zealand, 24 July 1999
Moderator: Wallace Liggett

Q. Professor Li Wei Ming, we understand you are a Professor in the music department of a famous and prestigious university in China. Would you tell us the name of the university?
A. It is the Xiamen University.

Q. Where is this located in China?
A. It is situated on the north east coast about oppsite Taiwan.

Q. What is the size of the city it is located in?
A. The city has a population of approximately one million people.

Q. Tell us about the university, its size and the number of arts students and music students it has?
A. There are about ten thousand students at the university with about two hundred enrolled in the music department.

Q. What levels does the music department teach to?
A. There are a number of courses up to a masters degree.

Q. What qualified you to become a professor at the university?
A. Mainly my twenty four years of teaching experience.

Q. What are your responsibilities at the university?
A. I tutor in the masters program and also engage in research. Additionally, I am an administrative Vice President of the university.

Q. Could you tell us about the research you are involved with?
A. This is mainly to do with education and particularly accordion education. Also composition of music.

Q. Do you teach any other instruments beside the accordion?
A. Yes, the electronic keyboard and synthesizer. Piano is also taught at the university but other tutors take the piano students.

Q. Does the accordion have similar status to other instruments taught at the university?
A. The accordion is accepted with other instruments as an instrument for the practical part of all courses up to the masters degree.

Q. Are there electronic accordions in China?
A. Yes, but not many.

Q. We understand that the university is an arts university. What other arts are taught at the university?
A. Many types including painting and drawing are taught at the Xiamen University. It is also quite common for those training as school teachers to learn accordion as part of their teacher training as they will use this in their classroom to accompany their students and entertain them. This is often the case for teacher trainees up to intermediate level.

Q. Does the Chinese government fund the university?
A. Yes. but there are also private schools in China.

Q. Could you tell us the fees a student would pay at the university?
A. Courses would be from the equivalent of US $200 to $600. Quite a large sum in the local currency.

Q. How would a student earn that amount of money?
A. It would be very difficult and usually the parents pay the fees.

Q. Could you tell us about a typical day in your life and how it is for you as a teacher at a university?
A. Yes I would be happy to do that. I rise at 6.30 am and leave for work at 7.20 am. I walk to the university as it is not too far from where I live. On arriving, I attend to administrative duties and teach until midday (12 o'clock).

After lunch, duties continue until 5.30 pm when I return home to have my evening meal and I usually watch the news on TV from 7 to 7.30 pm. I then spend the rest of the evening until retiring to bed preparing lessons for the next day or examining documents relating to administration of the university. Sometimes I have a little time to spend composing music. The university has a five day week.

Q. Would you mind answering some personal questions and telling us about your family?
A. I have a son who is at university on a course in automation working with computerized equipment. He has learned piano from an early age and won a competition at five years of age.

Q. Do you have any hobbies and other interests beside your teaching?
A. Yes I enjoy exercising and engage in swimming and table tennis. I also like to watch soccer and some boxing.

Q. We would like to ask some general questions about Chinese musicians and would appreciate your answers. Do Chinese accordionists and other musicians play much western music?
A. Yes especially classical, baroque and romantic period music.

Q. We have been pleased to have Chinese accordionists compete at the South Pacific Accordion Championships in New Zealand on a number of occasions. Do Chinese musicians have contact with other overseas musicians?
A. Since 1984 there has been many exhanges of ideas and Chinese musicians attending festivals, competitions and workshops in Europe, Russia and the USA.

Q. In the western world there is a clear difference between popular entertainment musicians and formal classical musicians. Is it the same in China?
A. Chinese accordionists play mainly more formal (classical) type music.

Q. Are there any entertainment type accordionists in China?
A. Only a very few.

Q. What opportunities are there for an accordionist to make a living with the instrument in China?
A. The opportunities are as teachers, also as musicians in shows, both entertaining and providing background music. Many have day jobs and play as a second income.

Q. Has the political situation in China effected musicians and their livelihood?
A. Not to any great extent.

Q. What are your impressions of western music?
A. I prefer formal or classical type music to what you term pop music.

Q. As a teacher would you like to offer some advice to students of the accordion?
A. I would like to hear more expression and better phrasing. I would also like to mention that the accordion has a disadvantage over some other instruments in that the same air pressure operates every note which makes it difficult or impossible to accent one note of a chord or to make clear differences in dynamics between bass and treble. I would like to see some way developed to allow these aspects to be performed on the accordion.

Q. Are there accordion manufacturers in China?
A. Yes, there are five factories.

Q. What types of accordions are manufactured?
A. Piano accordions with stradella (standard) bass. I understand they are working towards a free bass model.

Q. Where are accessories made?
A. Each factory makes their own accessories.

Q. Is there competition between the factories?
A. Yes each has their own brand.

Q. What are your plans for the future?
A. I would like to do more research and work on music education.

Q. Have you made any recordings?
A. Yes, but they are not available for sale at present. I have also recorded programs on accordion teaching for Chinese television.

Q. Have you written any books?
A. Yes, about accordion playing and also compiled some music albums.

Q. Is there anything you would like to say to our internet readers?
A. Yes I hope reading this interview will help people to appreciate and encourage more musicians to play the accordion all over the world.

Q. Is there any thing else you would like to say to close this interview?
A. I would like to thank you for the opportunity of this Celebrity Interview. I believe the Accordions Worldwide internet site is very important for the accordion and is a great means to spread knowledge and goodwill among accordionists all over the world.
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