Music Awakens Education In Vietnam – Forbes
“When words end, music begins.”
It’s a phrase that I have long believed about the power of and expression in music for which there is no equal in the written word. For many, visual art has that same power.
I was reminded of this phrase when I met with Nguyen Hong Minh over lunch in Ho Chi Minh City. Minh grew up in Vietnam but moved to the Soviet Union where he studied piano in a conservatory for many years before moving to the United Kingdom. There he held a range of jobs, including several in the arts.
Around 2008 he reached the conclusion that his performing talents in the West were not unique enough to have impact. In his words, he was replaceable.
In Vietnam though he realized he could be valuable. Not only that, but his country needed people like him.
Minh created the Erato Corporation, a school for music and the performance arts. Today the school offers music lessons for a variety of instruments and arts lessons for a range of mediums; the cost is $40 an hour. It also has a performance space and recording rooms. And it sells a range of books, from those about music and arts to those about education and cooking even.
It is not just a simple arts school.
As a generation of Vietnamese gain wealth through business in Vietnam’s recently opened economy and have children, instilling in them a broader notion of what education—and life and the human condition—is about is critical, Minh said.
Because these parents grew up in an era with little, a notion of how to parent in their current circumstance is absent. Parents don’t spend on books outside what the schools require. They provide little to no enrichment aside from the core academics. When they do, they tend to outsource parenting through their capital, but their behavior does not signal the importance of those things they are sending their children to. They don’t know how to parent. Fixing this and creating an educated citizenry that understands the human condition is critical to improving the well being of society through future innovation in business, Minh said.
Erato is in essence creating its own market where there has been nonconsumption. Minh wants to start an ecosystem for the newly wealthy to create a more wholesome, sustainable life. Because today’s students will be tomorrow’s leaders, instilling in them this broader education will have deep implications for how they will govern and the culture and opportunities they will create for a broader slice of the population in the generation following them.
In this vein, Minh envisions that the new performance space he is building will also be a space where parents can hold forums to discuss and debate how to parent and share their practices. He is educating students not only to be technicians of the arts in a narrow sense. That is what the state conservatories do, he said, and they would not be missed were they to disappear because they are not a part of the community. Instead, he is educating students to have a richer education that makes them not only full artists but also full humans.
In a page from the disruptive innovation playbook, Minh says he wants to stay under the radar until he has grown large enough based on organic demand to be accepted as a permanent institution and a critical element in society.
A social activist, an educator, and a businessman, Minh is seeking to change society to provide it with the capacity for compassion, passion, and love. It’s no idle dream, but perhaps words don’t do it justice.