You can visit the new DC site. Archived Edition www.nu.nl

Educational Institutions


For a more complete and detailed overview, please download the centire chapter  in PDF below



Taiwan and Hong Kong don’t have conservatories, but universities have music departments, including music trajectories on affiliated middle schools. For instance the Hong Kong Academy for Performing art has a prestigious School of Music, with good connections with conservatories in the West.

This system also exists in the PRC, but there are also nine major conservatories, which attract students across the nation and sometimes beyond. These institutions produce some of the best musicians in the world.

Many of the conservatories in the PRC offer bachelor degrees in various vocal styles, various instruments, composing, conducting, theory and music education. The vocal styles, instruments and composing courses may include traditional Chinese musical traditions, but the overall organization and teaching style is modeled on similar institutions in the Soviet Union. Although many conservatories were established in the 1920s and 1930s, they were restructured in the 1950s. After the 1980s western European and American influences have increased.

  • The Central Conservatory of Music (Beijing, since 1950) focuses on Western art music. It’s the leading institution in the PRC and the only one to receive support of the central government.
  • The China Conservatory of Music (Beijing, since 1964) focuses on traditional Chinese music.
  • The Shanghai Conservatory of Music (Shanghai, since 1927).
  • Shenyang Conservatory of Music (Shengyang, Liaoning Province, since 1938) has a popular music department that began teaching programs of pop, jazz and karaoke singing in the mid 1990s.
  • The Sichuan Conservatory of Music (Chengdu, Sichuan Province, since 1939) taught the pop singers Chris Lee and Tan Weiwei, among others.
  • The Tianjin Conservatory of Music (Tianjin, since 1958). Its departments included Music theory and Composition, Musicology, Orchestral music, Chinese National & Traditional Music, Keyboard performance, Vocal performance, Music Education, Pop Music, Art management, Dancing, Drama & Movie.
  • The Wuhan Conservatory of Music (Wuhan, since 1928).
  • The Xi’an Conservatory of Music (Xi’an, since 1949).
  • The Xinghai Conservatory of Music (Guangzhou, since 1957).


Private music schools

  • Some conservatories have joined forces to establish private music schools. The Central Conservatory in Beijing, The Shanghai Conservatory, and the Xinghai Conservatory in Guangzhou, for example, jointly founded the Guangzhou School of Piano Stars.
  • The privately established Beijing Midi School of Music established in 1993 offers a number of courses in pop and rock performance, including jazz. Its mission is ‘to promote an artistic and humanistic theory of modern music while offering classes in advanced musical techniques.’ The School's Dean Zhang Fan says that when the school was established, education in modern music was virtually non-existent and that nobody really knew how to teach modern music education or what precisely should be taught. When he became dean of the school, the first thing he did was to select and translate modern music teaching materials from abroad. Zhang and his assistants spent almost two years translating and editing teaching materials for guitar, bass, drums and other instruments. The school enabled a generation of out-of-towner rock musicians to move to Beijing in the first years of the 21st millennium, when the school also organized a music festival. Also with a nation-wide exam for guitar, the Midi School of Music aims at establishing standards.


Who educates pop musicians?

  • Most pop stars, rock musicians and Djs don’t come out of conservatories or universities. More so than in other places the gap between the official institutions and the commercial market in China is huge. People trained in ‘art music’ institutions are sometimes called xueyuanpai or academic clique. Surprisingly few of them are involved in for instance the experimental music or sound art scene. However, the gap between the official and the popular is decreasing on other fronts, and perhaps conservatories will open up too.
  • The private music schools have had an influence, although its programs are relatively short – from three months up to two years.
  • In the West a substantial number of successful pop musicians are art schools graduates. Also in China there are important connections with art institutions. Art schools foster creativity (rather than technical skills) and encourage students reflect on the impact of their art on audiences.
  • The bottom line is that most pop singers and musicians are self-taught.


For a more complete and detailed overview, please download the centire chapter  in PDF below