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Thursday 18 July 2013
Chew Jun Ru: RCM Pioneer
A student from the Royal College of Music has made history by becoming the first RCM graduate in a traditional Chinese instrument in the institution’s 130-year history.
Singaporean Chew Jun Ru, aged 24, is graduating with a BMus in performance on the Erhu, a two-stringed bowed musical instrument, sometimes known in the Western world as the "Chinese violin”. His studies have been principally undertaken at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) in Singapore, and ratified with an RCM degree thanks to an historic agreement signed between NAFA and the RCM in 2011.
Jun Ru said of his unique achievement: “It is a great honour to be the first Chinese instrumental graduate of the RCM. I first visited the RCM when I was on a trip with my family to London some years back. Being thoroughly impressed by the RCM, it has always been a dream of mine to be an RCM student, even though I majored in Chinese instrument. I would like to thank my parents for their full support, my principal study teacher, Zhang Bin, and all the staff and lecturers in Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and Royal College of Music who have helped me through my academic journey and made this dream come true!”
In all, 20 NAFA students – the other 19 specialising in western instruments - graduated with RCM degrees in 2013: this is the first time that any RCM degrees have been conferred outside the UK. These 20 students join a list of RCM alumni that includes some of the most influential musical figures of the past 100 years, including Leopold Stokowski, Benjamin Britten, Dame Joan Sutherland and Sir James Galway.
Jun Ru has already enjoyed much success as a Erhu player, having won first prize in the 2012 National Chinese Music Competition (Erhu Open Category) in Singapore. Part of his prize was a concerto performance with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra, and you can watch his stunning performance on YouTube.
He will now undertake a three-year Masters degree at the China Conservatory of Music in Beijing, supported by a China Government Scholarship. As well as continuing to perfect his instrumental skills, Jun Ru also plans to carry on his work contributing to the research and development of Chinese music. He commented “I believe Chinese music will hold a significant role in the world’s music scene and therefore, graduating with my Western music counterparts in the school’s cohort is truly an important milestone in my life. My dream is to tour the world, making recordings and staging recitals for audiences who know less about Chinese instrumental arts.”
Professor Colin Lawson, Director of the RCM, commented “I would like to congratulate Chew Jun Ru and the rest of the NAFA class of 2013. We’re very proud of all of them, as we are of our partnership with NAFA, which gives the opportunity for gifted young musicians in Asia to practise the art of music at the highest level and to benefit from the unique strengths of both institutions.”
Jun Ru has said that he shares this sense of pride: “The RCM, although situated on the other side of the world, is a college that I have a great sense of belonging to. Looking back on my years of studies, they have all been fruitful and enriching. I will always represent myself proudly as a student of NAFA and the RCM.”