Monthly Archives: April 2014

Easter Island’s Only Concert Pianist

April 24th, 2014

61958108_dsc_0023
Mahani Teave: Easter Island’s only classical pianist

I recently saw a BBC feature by a Santiago-based correspondent on a young woman named Mahani Teave who is Easter Island’s only classical pianist. These are the type of stories I find truly inspiring.

When you think of this remote and isolated South Pacific island, you normally think of moai, those huge stone figures whose origins and presence have mystified people for a long time. You don’t think about Chopin, Rachmaninov, or Bach.

easter_island

This young Easter Islander fell in love with the classics as a girl, and studied with the only teacher and on the only piano on the island. But the teacher left after a year, and the piano fell into disrepair and became unplayable. Her wishes and dreams were put on hold.

But Mahani had a persistent vision of her childhood’s music pursuits and took the whole family to Chile (2,300 miles away, the nearest landmass to Easter Island). There she could continue to study and play. She later studied music in the US and Germany, where she now lives. But living in Europe didn’t stop her from starting a music school on the island, complete with a grand piano.

She told the BBC, “Music is a really big part of the culture on the island. If there’s a guitar or a ukulele in the house, you can guarantee that everyone in the family, even the five-year-old kid, can play it.”

Here is a YouTube video of Mahani playing the beautiful Barcarole in F major by Chopin:

Here is another video shot on her home turf, Easter Island:

For you Spanish speakers, here’s an interview on Santiago TV:

Tom Schnabel, M.A.

Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Blogs for Rhythm Planet
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com
http://tomschnabel.com/music-salon/

toms

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20 Interesting Facts about Mongolia

April 17th, 2014

Mongolian_Flag

Mongolia lies in central Asia between Siberia on the north and China on the south. It is a land full of vast emptiness, nearly twice the size of Eastern Europe and with a population of 3,226,516 (2013 est.), it is the least populous country in the world. It is slightly larger than Alaska. The name Mongol comes from a small tribe whose leader, Ghengis Khan, began a conquest in the 13th century that would eventually encompass an enormous empire stretching from Asia to Europe, as far west as the Black Sea and as far south as India and the Himalayas. After his death the empire was divided into several powerful Mongol states, but these broke apart in the 14th century. The Mongols eventually retired to their original steppe homelands and in the late 17th century came under Chinese rule of the Manchu dynasty which divided Mongolia into Inner Mongolia and Outer Mongolia.

Mongolia won its independence in 1921 with Soviet backing and a communist regime was installed in 1924. The modern country of Mongolia, however, represents only part of the Mongols’ historical homeland; more ethnic Mongolians live in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China than in Mongolia. The State of Mongolia was formerly known as Outer Mongolia. It contains the original homeland of the historic Mongols, whose power reached its zenith during the 13th century under Kublai Khan. Outer Mongolia became a democratic democracy in 1990. Inner Mongolia continued to remain under Chinese control.


Here are some interesting facts about this landlocked country:

1. Chinese history dating back more than 2,000 years records periodic attacks and plunders of its farmlands, villages and town by China by marauding nomadic tribes from the west, which led to its construction of the Great Wall around 200 B.C. to protect itself from incursions. But by the 14th century, the Mongolian kingdom was in serious decline, with invasions from a resurgent China and internal conflict and warfare. The Great Wall is in Inner Mongolia.

Great_Wall

2. Ulaanbaatar (population 949,000) is the capital of Mongolia and its largest city. As a nomadic city, the capital used to move three times a year! The name means “Red Hero.” A 131-foot statue of Genghis Khan sits on the steppe about an hour’s drive from Ulaanbaatar.

Genghis_Khan

3. The official language is Mongolian (90%). Other languages spoken include Turkic and Russian.

4. Based on 2011 estimates, of the total population, 97.4% are literate (96.8% male and 97.9% female). There was a time when education in Mongolia was managed by Buddhist monasteries and only monks had access to it. Today, Mongolia has 178 colleges, universities and teacher training colleges, of which 42 are public. The National University of Mongolia (established in 1942), situated in Ulaanbaatar, was the country’s first modern institution of higher education.

5. The Ministry of Science, Technology, Education and Culture (MSTEC) is the central administrating body that formulates nationwide education policy and sets the standard for each level of formal education beginning with nursery education through university higher education.

6. Mongolia has a parliamentary system of government. The current president of Mongolia, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, attended both the University of Colorado at Boulder and Harvard University in the U.S.

Tsakhiagiin_Elbegdorj
President Tsakhiaglin Elbegdorj

7. The ethnic makeup of the people is: 94.9% Mongol (predominantly Khalkha), 5% Turkic (of which Kazak is the largest group), and 0.1% other (including Chinese and Russian).

8. Religion: 53% Buddhist Lamaist, 3% Islam, 2.2% Christian, 2.9 % Shamanist, 0.4% other, 38.6% none (2010 est.)

9. Mongolia’s natural resources include: oil, copper, molybdenum, tungsten, phosphates, tin, nickel, zinc, wolfram, fluorspar, gold, silver, iron.

10. Mongolia’s agriculture includes: wheat, barley, vegetables, forage crops, sheep goats, cattle, camels, and horses.

11. Mongolia stands an average of 5,800 feet above sea level.

Mongolian_Mountains

12. Despite its landlocked status, Mongolia has many salt lakes. Mongolian lakes and rivers contain more than fifty unique fish species.

13. Mongolia has the oldest National Park in the world. Lying just South of Ulaanbaatar the Bogd Khan National Park dates its origin to 1778 — it predates Yellowstone by over 100 years. Established by the Mongolian government in 1778, it was originally chartered by Ming Dynasty officials in the 1500s as an area to be kept off limits to extractive uses, protected for its beauty and sacred nature.

Bogd_Khan_National_Park
Bogd Khan National Park

14. The Gobi Desert, the largest in Asia and the fifth largest in the world, is in Mongolia. The Gobi was once a sea and now filled with marine fossils. Roy Chapman Andrews made the first discovery of dinosaur eggs in the Gobi. His exploits inspired the creation of Indiana Jones. Many dinosaur fossils still lie exposed.

Gobi_Desert

15. Genghis Khan could not read or write, but he commissioned the first Mongolian writing system – the Mongolian script. Since the Soviet period, Mongolians have used the Cyrillic script. In Mongolian, the verb comes last. If you want to know whether a Mongolian loves or hates you, you have to wait till the end of the sentence!


script

16. Mongol Khuumii or throat singing involves producing two simultaneous tones with the human voice.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0djHJBAP3U

17. The three most popular sports are horse racing, archery, and Mongolian wrestling.

Mongolian_Wrestling

18. Animals native to Mongolia include:

a) Snow leopards: quarter of the world’s population of snow leopards live in Mongolia.

snow_leopard

b) The two-humped camel: survives temperatures from minus to plus fifty degrees Celsius!

camel

c) The Mongolian Takhi horse is the last wild horse in the world. Mongolians do not name their horses; they refer to them by color.

Takhi_Horse

and,

d) Eagles which are kept as pets by nomads. The Kazakh minority hunt with them.

Mongolian_Eagle

19. Mongolia’s diet is primarily meat and dairy products. The local alcoholic drink is airag, fermented mare’s milk.

20. In the streets of Ulaanbaatar you’ll find a large number of so-called MobiPhones. These are wireless phones operated by phone vendors who charge users 100 tugriks per minutes. The phones are about two times the size of a regular phone but you’ll see them at small kiosks around the city.

Bonus fun fact:
When walking down a street in a Mongolian town or city if you accidentally bump into a person or brush past them, don’t be surprised if the other person reaches for your hand. Go ahead and shake their hand or even just touch it to apologize and express that it was indeed an accident and not intentional. The same gesture applies if your leg accidentally hits someone else’s under the table. Remember to shake hands!

Sources:
http://www.mongolia-travel-guide.com/mongolia-facts.html#ixzz2yz0Oztou
http://www.factmonster.com/country/mongolia.html
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mg.html
http://listverse.com/2013/10/10/10-amazing-facts-about-the-mongols/

ACEI

Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.
www.acei1.com

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UNITED KINGDOM: 6 Facts about the New GCSE Grading System

April 10th, 2014

students

When I was a secondary student in the UK, we were preparing ourselves in Form V for the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Examinations at the Ordinary Level and the Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) Examinations. Several years later, when I returned to the UK as a member of a U.S.-based research group, we gathered data and information on the sweeping changes that ended the GCE O’levels and CSEs and introduced the GCSEs and a new tier of exams known as Advanced Subsidiary that were introduced in concert with the General Certificate of Education Advanced Level examinations. Soon, the system will undergo another series of changes and this time it is a shake-up of the GCSE grade system as well as the content of the examinations. Starting in 2015, students in Form IV/year 10 will be subject to a new grading system. A key goal of the new grading system is to offer more differentiation, especially among the highest achievers and the large number of students who hover in the middle grades.

Under the new system, students will be graded on a numerical nine-point scale replacing the current seven-point A*-G grading system. In the new system, nine will be the top grade and one will be the lowest. The main goal of these reforms is according to a post in The Guardian “to bring England’s exam benchmark up to the level of students in the world’s leading economies such as China, as measured in the international Pisa education survey.”

Here are some key points, dry that may be, that are being considered for the new grading system:

1. The changes will be introduced starting in From IV or Year 10 in September 2015 and the first examinations under the new system will be held in summer 2017.

2. New GCSEs in England language, English literature and Mathematics will be the first set of subjects introduced and graded under the new system, with more new subjects to follow in September 2016.

3. The boundary for the new grade five will be set at about half to two thirds of a GCSE grade higher than the current requirement for a grade C.

4. The new grade four will correspond to the current grade C. Under the new system middle and top performing candidates will be better distinguished as they will be spread among six different grades (four up to nine), and not the present four (C up to A*).

5. Under consideration is equating the new grade seven boundary to the current Grade A baseline which provides three top grade bands instead of two and keeping Grade 9 as a supergrade for exceptional performance.

6. Students receiving a grade one in the new GCSEs will be at the same achievement level as those with a grade F or G in the current system.

For more information on the new GCSE grading system, please visit The Guardian’s post on this link: http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2014/apr/03/gcse-grading-system-shakeup-teachers.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI
www.acei1.com

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World Music Teaches You Everything

April 3rd, 2014

World_Music
Music tells the stories of our world

I majored in Humanities as an undergraduate because it was broad-based and I could take many courses, from California Geography to Entomology to history, philosophy, languages and literature. Later, I took an MA in Comparative Literature for similar reasons: I could read the great writers from around the world, learning from epistolary novels (novels of letters e.g. Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther). Historical novels, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and a lot of French writers (favorites were Balzac, Stendhal, and Flaubert). You learn about 19th century Paris from reading Balzac. You learn about Napoleon from reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace, 19th century England from Dickens, psychology from Flaubert. You learn so many things about history, sociology, and especially psychology, human behavior, dreams, our collective aspirations, longing, the whole panoply of human existence.

The same holds true for world music. You learn about geography, something Americans could use more knowledge about. I am quite knowledgeable about African history because of my fondness for its huge variety of music. Additionally, I know all about Cape Verde, for instance, because I love its music and met and interviewed Cesaria Evora many times. Now I can tell anybody about where it is–300 miles off the coast of Senegal. In 2 weeks, I’m actually going to Cape Verde for the Atlantic Music Expo and Kriol Jazz Festival. I’m really looking forward to it.

Because music is such a basic expression in all cultures, it necessarily teaches us about those cultures: again, history, psychology, anthropology, geography, customs, mores, everything.

I say don’t confine yourself to just one kind of music. Like all the varieties of food we can now enjoy, why just eat one kind? World music is about exploration, finding joy and delight. Why deprive ourselves of such valuable lessons? For me it has enriched my life beyond measure, which is why I’ve been a world music cheerleader for the past 30 years.

toms

Tom Schnabel, M.A.

Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Blogs for Rhythm Planet
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com

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ACEI turns 20 today!

April 1st, 2014

20thAnniversary

A message from the founder of ACEI President & CEO, Ms. Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert:



“Twenty years ago on this day in 1994, ACEI opened its doors and has since been serving the international education and student community. We couldn’t have done it without the support of our friends and colleagues at U.S. colleges, universities, state regulatory boards, and the international students and immigrant community. ACEI has survived the numerous economic highs and lows, political events that affected immigration policies. We are convinced our success and strength is a result of our organization’s overarching mission of adhering to standards and best practice, complete customer satisfaction and our team’s commitment to provide service that is impeccable from start to finish. We constantly seek ways to improve what we are doing in order to satisfy the needs of our clients and bring ACEI to a new level. We are glad to be one of the market leaders in credential evaluations. We sincerely appreciate everyone’s support and look forward to many more years of success. Thank you.”

ACEI

Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.
www.acei1.com

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