Vox Nativa Children’s Choir
Introducing Vox Nativa
In the Nantou province of Taiwan, stands the island’s tallest mountain, Yu Shan. The name, Yu Shan or “Jade Mountain”, describes the scenery with perfect imagery. The rocky mountain towers over its surroundings at 3,952m (12965ft) in elevation and is covered in luscious foliage. At the foothills of the Jade Mountain, hidden behind nature’s green embrace, sits a special school for aboriginal children. As you step foot onto the campus, the pure and powerful sounds of Vox Nativa Children’s Choir surround you as it echoes through the hallways.
Music can move, uplift, inspire, and empower – these powerful effects of music were the motivations behind the Vox Nativa Children’s Choir and School. Founded in 2008, Vox Nativa is a nonprofit special weekend music school with two main objectives:
1) To achieve social reform within the poverty stricken aboriginal populations and communities through cultivation of gifted aboriginal children.
Children of Vox Nativa range from 9 years old to 13 years old and have one thing in common – they are aboriginal children who earn top of the class grades despite coming from low income families.
Vox Nativa’s performance has gained numerous awards and praise through the years. The choir’s story paired with the angelic and inspiring voices of the children have touched audiences near and far. The children’s caliber of talent, tireless hard work, and dedication have earned them critical acclaim as well as domestic musical awards such as the Golden Melody Awards (the equivalent to US Grammy Awards).
This summer, we hope to fulfill one of Vox Nativa’s simple dreams – to tour the US and share their voices and songs with international audiences.
A Mission of Social Reform
Despite the serene environment, the aboriginal communities of Jade Mountain live in rough economic conditions, inadequate homes, and volatile communities where alcoholism is common among citizens. Along with the social economic issues present within these communities, the cultural traditions of aboriginal people are also suffering as cultural pride and education diminishes. The story of Taiwanese aboriginals is similar to indigenous communities throughout the world. The once proud and glorious communities now harbor strong feelings of inferiority, hopelessness, and apathy which creates a vicious cycle of poverty.
Vox Nativa believes that instilling confidence within the youngest generation is the key to breaking the vicious cycle and the key to social reform. Bukut, a principal of one of the elementary schools in the XinYi Township of Jade Mountain, is a strong advocate for this type of social reform. Being of aboriginal descent, he personally experienced the internal and external struggles of growing up in the aboriginal communities of Jade Mountain.
Vox Nativa offers supplemental academic classes for top students around XinYi Township of Jade Mountain. The choir emerged from the need to find activities that can further help these children build self-esteem and confidence in their aboriginal identity. Bukut believes that “education provides the greatest opportunity for changing the fate of Taiwan’s Aborigines” and hopes that “these children can get into college, pursue their dreams while staying committed to their communities and becoming future leaders of indigenous people”.
Taiwanese aboriginals are known for having great rhythm and strong vocals. Recreational and ceremonial songs carry beautiful and unique harmonies that can be appreciated by all cultures. Bukut hopes that the children of Vox Nativa can build confidence and pride in their aboriginal identity when they experience appreciation and applause for their performance from audiences everywhere.
Today, Vox Nativa’s performance has won numerous awards in competition. Their fans and supporters grow enthusiastically. They have been honored in Taiwan’s 2009 Golden Melody Awards (the equivalent to US Grammy Awards), and they released their first fundraising CD album that same year. Vox Nativa was invited to perform in Expo 2010 held in Shanghai, China. They also competed in Hong Kong and Thailand and won various awards. Vox Nativa has made great strides toward its mission and goals.
Perseverance and Commitment
XinYi Township is a vast area (550 square miles) with elevations higher than 2500m (8202ft). The roads are rugged and winding, and settlements are widely spread. Since Vox Nativa is a magnet school, it draws students from across district lines. The recruits are elementary or middle school students from 11 different tribal villages and 17 different schools.
The students spend their weekends and breaks living at the school to learn math, reading, science, English, and music. During the school year, three chartered buses take children from different settlements to the school to attend classes and choir practice on the weekends. For some, these are 1.5 hour bus rides each way. Turning Saturdays and Sundays into fully packed school days is a challenge and a huge sacrifice, but the children remain committed and they continue to persevere..
There are no shortcuts to success. Bukut and Vox Nativa teachers and volunteers committ their days to teaching and guiding Vox Nativa students. They believe that when children start feeling a sense of accomplishment and confidence, they become more independent and grow hopeful of the future.. With each choir performance, the children have the opportunity to travel outside of their tribal villages and communities to broaden their horizons and experience what the world has to offer.
Vox Nativa has already seen the positive effects of their program. The school has already been able to send many students to college — three of which are attending Taiwan’s most prestigious university, National Taiwan University. The success that the students of Vox Nativa have achieved, leaves no doubt that combining music and education leads to more confident and successful people.
About Wisdom Culture Education Organization
Wisdom Culture Education Organization (WCEO) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to spread and promote Chinese culture and education to children around the San Francisco Bay Area. WCEO’s goals and beliefs are similar to that of Vox Nativa in that education and cultural identity builds confidence. This year, WCEO is helping Vox Nativa’s fundraising efforts and is hosting the group for its Bay Area performance this summer. To find out more about WCEO, visit: www.wceo.org.