By Maya Spitzer
Chinese teacher Dr. Qinru Zhou hardly ever speaks about his music career out of modesty; but, his accomplishments are certainly of note, Javier Zaragoza, Head of Foreign language said. A book of Zhouâs articles about music theory is slated to be published in China this year.
Since he was a child, Zhou said the study of music was natural to him. He recounted his musical training as a practice of creativity, harnessing the flow of ideas to produce and synthesize.
After dedicating much of his young life to musical study and composition, Zhou continued to both compose, study and play various types of music throughout China. For nine years he conducted the renowned Beijing (Peking) Opera.
âTwenty years ago, Chinaâs doors were closedâ said Zhou.
However, Zhou was able to leave China when he gained entrance to the United States through a fellowship program to earn a doctorate in music from UCLA. While working towards his PhD, he also taught Chinese at UCLA, Zhou said. However, he was unhappy teaching there because he did not agree with the teaching style that the UCLA Chinese department subscribed to.
When he heard that Harvard-Westlake was looking to build a Chinese program, he seized the opportunity. Ever since then, he has organized and led the Chinese program, and has also set up a summer program to bring students to China.
At the end of last year, Zhou left school two days early in order to fly to Nanjing and attend a Chinese musicologistsâ society conference. He is their Honorable Member of the Board of Directors and served as a jury member for their first contest of music articles. Later, he was invited to give three speeches at various colleges, two in Tianjin and one in Beijing.Â Â
The shift from composition and the analytical study of music to the teaching of language appears to be a non-sequitur in Zhouâs career. To him, the two are deeply intertwined.
âMusic is a language of its own,â Zhou said. He said that the study of language incorporates structure, style, rhythm, and analysis, all of which have significant counterparts in the language of music.
He regularly writes scholarly articles exploring music theory and musicology of both western and Chinese culture. His writings are some of the only ones of their kind, and are used as required reading in many graduate programs in China, said Zhou.
A compilation of those articles will comprise his upcoming publication. He also founded the journal âMusic in China,â the only scholarly analysis of Chinese music in western academia.
Zhou describes himself as a âleading musician from an academic standpoint.â
At the same time, his musical composition, which he said developed over time into his own singular motif, incorporates western as well as Chinese folk elements. His music has been performed in China and in New York.
During the summer he leads Harvard-Westlake students and some music scholars to China to expose them to Chinese music and culture. He also gives lectures in China on music theory and composition.
âI am devoted to the world, and to bring it more in harmony,â Zhou said, and by applying his musical expertise as well as his knowledge of China to educate those around him, Zhou hopes to accomplish his dream.