Power of Music, Diversity and Community
Power of Music, Diversity and Community

On 13th Dec., UWC Changshu China held its annual Winter Concert to celebrate the festival season, and more importantly to celebrate diversity of ourcommunity. Christoph Genz, Head of Arts and Music Department, as well as the music teacher, shared his reflection of the Concert.


  • Choir, Hallelujah


As a UWC school, our teaching and learning - in fact our whole philosophy of living together – is very much based on two aspects as identified by our founder Kurt Hahn:


1. 'There is more in you than you think'

2. Experiential learning


Our major school events and performances are a great manifestation of these aspects, whether it is Christmas Concert, One World Concert, Chinese Cultural Evening or any of the other performances and cultural events. Students and faculty challenge themselves and prepare for these performances and often go beyond themselves. Experiential because we don’t just talk – we do!

  • Leading singers Mike (Left) and Mingyang in the choir
  • A - capella


As a music teacher I spend a substantial amount of time in the classroom talking about music. That is not really what music is or should be about. Music is about DOING, about MAKING music. What makes music special and what matters in music is performing, listening and appreciating it. This is almost impossible to ‘teach’ in a classroom. The best ‘lessons’ are events like our Christmas Concert or any other performance.


As performers students experience what it is like to work hard and prepare something and then to perform to a theatre packed with people, they experience the nervousness, the incredible feeling of success and achievement, possibly also the feeling of not succeeding or rising to their own expectations, they experience what it means to have a supportive audience. As members of the audience they see the results of their peers’ hard and dedicated work, they admire the different talents, they hear music or see dances they might never have heard or seen before, and,most of all, they are part of a highly supportive community that rewards the effort and commitment and not only the result. 


This is what I like most about these events: the atmosphere of support and feeling the strong bond of our community and how we are brought together even more closely despite and because of our different personalities and cultural backgrounds.


The Rope Jump performance by four students from Bermuda, China, India and Bangladesh, was a perfect example of showing this support: not every jump was perfect, but the audience cheered the performers and encouraged them to try again. This created a beautiful atmosphere of positivity and support,which was much more important than the actual performance.


Of course we want to have performances that show the incredible and diverse talents of our students, but the main focus is NOT a perfect and polished performance. The main idea is the participation of as many people from different backgrounds as possible. This creates an incredible sense of community, belonging, joy, pride and identity.

  • French Song, Les Francophones
  • Away in a Manger, sung by teachers (Author: 2nd on the left)


When I met a DP2 student from Afghanistan over a year ago, she told me about her life, her country and some of the problems people are facing there. I immediately wanted her to share her story with our community. Listening to her sharing her story made me aware again of how privileged my own life is and has been, how important it is to listen to each other, to learn about each other, to respect each other and ultimately to continue to strive for this goal of living together in peace and harmony. Her speech during our Christmas Concert was a real highlight for me. It was moving, disturbing and shocking, yet also a real inspiration to make this world a safer and better place for us and the next generations. I felt very grateful to her for having the courage to stand in front of so many people and share her very personal story with us. By sitting together and listening to her, we also grew closer as a community, each with their own thoughts and connections to her words.


  • Last Christmas by Big Band


I simply love the diversity of these events! We move from Handel’s Messiah straight to Rope Jumping and from there to the story of the Afghanistan student about the difficult life in Kabul. Faculty members sing and the String Quartet play traditional Christmas songs without any microphones creating a tender and almost vulnerable atmosphere,followed by blazing beats as Afrobeat dance group enters the stage and seems to take over the entire theatre. 


These are moments when I feel that the mission and philosophy of our school and of the UWC movement come to life. By singing, playing, dancing, speaking and listening together, we become more united. For these short moments I feel full of hope and happiness and I love this feeling! 



- End -


Author: Christoph Genz

Photo and video: Olly  Wu, Steven Hao, FP