Aurelio Porfiri (2016), WRITING ON WATER. Letter to a Chinese parent on music
and education. Hong Kong: Chorabooks
EBook (formato Kindle)
$ 4.00 (in all Amazon stores)
Aurelio Porfiri is a composer, organist, conductor, writer and educator. He was substitute organist for
Vatican City Vicariate in Saint Peter’s Basilica (1993-2008), organist in charge for the papal audience (2001-
2008), director of music in Santa Susanna, the American church in Rome (1999-2008). He has spent 7 years
living and teaching in Macau (China), where he was University Professor and Director of Choral Activities for
several educational institutions. His compositions are published in Italy, Germany, China, France and USA.
He has published 17 books and several-hundred articles.
After having lived and worked in Macau for 7 years, mostly in the field of education, the author felt the
urge to write a letter to a Chinese parent, a letter that he hoped would serve to say those things that for
lack of communication were left unsaid. Those years were a time of struggles and joys, with the sufferance
of communicating in a culture that is not open to the world. The situation of Macau is certainly peculiar,
but it is not impossible that most of what is said here will resonate around all the Chinese world, especially
mainland China and in some ways also in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore.
It may seem a pessimistic book, but it is not: it is indeed very optimistic regarding the quality of the
students and their potential, but it is less optimistic thinking about the mindset that prevents students from
expressing themselves fully. This mindset is certainly defended by the parents, thinking they are doing good
and the best for their kids. The author of this book is not convinced that they are going in a good direction
and he tries with this book to open up a debate, a debate that certainly he is not the first to start but that in
the Chinese world is not really considered worthy of discussion. After having seen many things and
situations, and out of sincere love for the wonderful students he was lucky enough to meet, the author
hopes that in the future, other teachers will not feel that they are writing on water, but that their work,
because of the change of mentality, will last generation after generation.
“Because when people talk about Chinese culture they think about great philosophers, artists,
statesmen; but is this culture still the Chinese culture we are talking of today? You may think that
mine is an isolated voice about all the issues that I have mentioned until now to you about the
importance of a different kind of education, about the importance of music education to be more
encouraged and relevant”.
“But the problem is always there: the people in charge of music education, or in charge of training
music teachers in Macau, are the outcome of that kind of society and so the cycle is never ending
and unfortunately, as I can imagine, it will never really stop”.
“And because of that difference between learning and education, a difference that I felt on my own
skin, I started to be so pessimistic about the future of education in China, where everything is about
success without a purpose”.
“Indeed, the problem of education cannot wholly be placed on the shoulders of teachers, students
and school administrators”.
“Aurelio is an intelligent young man with a great deal of experience in choral music, liturgical service music,
as well as liturgical organ. He is extremely well-liked and respected by his colleagues. First and foremost, he
is an excellent musician (“the essential cornerstone”). Aurelio has a superb ear, advanced keyboard skills,
and an excellent conductor.”
Dale Warland (Conductor, composer and academic, founder and conductor of the Dale Warland Singers –
“I must say also that I so much appreciate the constructive and fruitful collaboration we have had so far. I
really enjoyed writing that article with you – it’s not often I have a chance to collaborate with someone
with so much knowledge and insight and ability to articulate it so well. I admire you for that quality, my
friend! It’s also been a joy looking into your composing world – not all composers succeed in writing music
that is so well adapted to the target group for your music! Impressive work, Aurelio!”
Thomas Caplin (Conductor and Composer – Norway)