Chin-ai String Orchestra is an indigenous student group that overcame considerable challenges to cultivate young music talent and help members pursue their dreams. The Nantou-based group competed against five other troupes in the 2017 Summa Cum Laude Festival in Vienna and won the top prize with resounding praise.
Located in a remote and rural mountainous village in Nantou County, Chin-ai Elementary is school to about 60 Atayal and Seediq students, most of whom are also members of to the Chin-ai String Orchestra. Many of the school's students, however, face problems stemming from poverty as well as lack of parental involvement and dearth of resources.
Having taught at Chin-ai since 2006, Chen and Wang first started a violin class to provide students with access to musical education and later established a string group in 2008 to discover and nurture each student's music potential. The teachers also searched for opportunities for these students to enroll in music classes when applying for high school.
The group takes in every student who is interested in learning music and covers their tuition fees, living expenses, and accommodation. To provide quality education, the two founders take these students to the city every weekend for extra music lessons and even purchased a house for the students to stay.
Despite limited resources, the music group has changed these students' lives. Everyday after school, the students would remain on campus to have dinner, do homework, and take turn practicing the violin, demonstrating the founders' idea on how music education can unite disadvantaged students and provide more opportunities for indigenous children.
In addition, the group learning environment has forged a strong bond among members, changing individual attitudes toward learning and helping them build confidence, accept their responsibilities, and regain faith in the future.
Over the years, the group has become one with members ranging from elementary school to college. Their passion even moved world-renowned violinist Lin Cho-liang (林昭亮), who volunteered to train the group and elevate it to the next level. Lin also noted that among all his performances, the collaboration with Chin-ai was the most unforgettable experience for him.
After winning several prizes at national competitions, the group presented their music pieces that incorporated Western classics with Taiwanese folk and aboriginal music at the 2017 Summa Cum Laude Festival in Vienna. Deeply impressed, the judges awarded Chin-ai the top prize and praised the members for playing from their hearts.