A Dulwich First

Earlier this year we received news of Leanne Chu, an IB graduate from the Dulwich College Beijing 2009/10 class and her fast track graduation from the Berklee College of Music. We asked one of our team, Michelle Zheng from DC Suzhou, to get an interview with a person we think is the first IB graduate from the Dulwich family of schools to graduate from University…take it away Michelle and Leanne.

Dulwich College Suzhou student Michelle Zheng for A little bit about yourself - hometown, hobbies, one magnificently interesting fact that people don't usually know about you?

I was born and raised in HK where I lived until the age of 16. Playing piano, listening to all styles of music, composing have always been my hobbies since young age; even though they eventually became part of my academics, I still enjoy doing these things in my leisure time without feeling tired from them. Cooking/baking, trying new restaurants, watching cooking shows—anything related to food—are also some of my big hobbies. Other than that, I like just anything light-hearted with good company like chit chatting with friends, playing board/word games (bananagrams is the best!) and getting a suntan on the beach.

MZ: Why did you go to Dulwich College in Beijing and how long did you stay? Had Dulwich influenced your decision to go to Berklee at all? If not, what did, if at all?

I went to DCB because my family moved to Beijing in 2008; I stayed there for 2 years, until 2010, for the International Baccalaureate Diploma program. Dulwich, or, more specifically, the DCB Music Department, definitely did influence my decision to go to Berklee. Apart from developing my passion in music through learning and being involved in different musical events, I was also significantly inspired by teachers and students there whose attitudes of life were so much enriched by the integration of music into their lives. The way music was taught to us at DCB fostered our beings and enabled us to acquire good qualities in other aspects of life, such as discipline, respect and honesty. In addition, I marveled at how music was able to foster a bond between musicians that I had never felt elsewhere. That said, apart from pursuing a higher education and, hopefully, a career in music, I was also seeking after such positive climate found at the DCB Music Department at Berklee. What attracted me the most about Berklee is not just their world-renowned music programs and famous professors but also the school’s philosophies—“ to value ethical behavior in all aspects of personal and professional life by establishing a community that values integrity in all relationships” and “to cultivate a supportive a supportive learning environment by actively promoting a climate of respect for personal and cultural differences.”

MZ:How was DCB for you?

I had an awesome time at DCB. I was lucky to be in a very special year group consisting of 22 students who were the very first year of IB graduates for DCB (and my student no. was 001!). The smallest class I had was my Design & Technology class with only 3 higher-level students. I liked how all my classes were very discussion-oriented; we got to express and share our opinions with one another all the time, whether towards the class format, activities or learning materials, thus a very flexible and interactive learning experience. On the other hand, there were all kinds of school events and ongoing activities throughout the academic year, which gave every student an opportunity to pursue their personal interest, expand their social circles and lead a vibrant, youthful life.

MZ: How was it like for you, being in an international environment?

I really enjoyed being in an international environment. Students at DCB came from all over the world, each possessing a cultural background different than many others on campus. In my opinion, this increased a sense of respect and appreciation for everyone in school, from teachers to students. Everyone is given an equal opportunity despite difference in gender, race and ethnicity; growing up in such environment definitely provides an extremely positive awareness of equality and individual difference. Coming from a local school in HK to DCB, I have certainly learnt a lesson on esteeming the excellence of others and I am really thankful for such experience.

MZ: Why the Berklee Music Programme? And how was the application process - or any notable stage about it?

What I like the most about Berklee is their immense diversity of musicians. Every student at Berklee came from a unique musical lineage that altogether creates a land of opportunity and creativity for students to explore a whole new dimension of music according to one’s definition of music. One of my strongest personality is my eagerness to face challenge and exploring the unknown, in which the music programme at Berklee is certainly a perfect fit—“to define and refine the individual talents of our students by providing a broad range of major programs offered by a distinguished faculty, and to prepare them for careers in music that reflect the diversity of expression and opportunities that define music today.” The application process for me was scary but exciting at the same time. I was not completely persuaded that I was musically talented enough for such prestigious college, but I held onto the belief that the excellence of this school was exactly I needed to become better and flew all the way from China to Boston, MA for a one-hour audition and in-person interview. My passion for music, finally, was what got me through the application process.

MZ: What were some activities that you participated in, may it be within the programme or outside of it? If so, tell us some more about it.

was involved in quite a number of performing and community groups including several different styles bands, concert choir, Women Musician Network, Music Therapy Ensemble, Rhythm of the Universe, Berklee International Radio Network and Caribbean Beats Club. The best part of being in these groups is the fun of meeting new people who share the same passion while learning at the same time.

MZ: How do you like Boston?

Boston is an extremely cosmopolitan city full of students from all different parts of the world. I enjoy being surrounded by students, characterized by their dynamics and commitment for academia, who are also youthful people that contribute to the vigour of the city.

MZ: Was Berklee and everything in general what you had expected?

Yes, to an even better degree! MZ What would be some sage advice you'd give to others, either about school life, or just life in general? Take advantage of your surroundings when you are still at school—establish healthy relationships with others, make good use of the resources you have at school, learn as much as you can both from school and from others—work hard, play hard! Key to a successful life is, as the Five Point Guide at the DCB Music Department states, is this formula: DISCIPLINE. RESPECT. HONESTY. FUN. RESULT. Check out my article in the Marcato Press, 2nd volume of DCB, “Built upon the Five Point Guide: Life of a Musician and Beyond”!

MZ: What are you planning to do now, after your graduation?

My plan until the end of the year is to work at a Music Production Company, writing jingles for their music libraries and assisting them in production projects. I have been learning a lot working for them; it feels accomplishing to be able to put to use what I learnt from school to practice and to bring my exploration of music to the next level. After this year, I will most probably try a new job in a different State. Post-script: What does Michelle's former teacher and Dulwich College Biejing Head of Music, Shane O'Shea,  have to say about Michelle's great achievement?

Leanne was, and continues to be, an inspiring person and musician. She overcame great obstacles in life to achieve her goals and follow her dream, to become a musician. Her heart was always in Berklee College, and she has enjoyed every moment of her time there. Leanne was integral in making the Dulwich Beijing Music Department what it is today, her work ethic and efforts were and continue to be, motivational to all around her. Leanne will go on and have a wonderfully creative life in music, and bring pleasure to countless people whom are lucky enough to encounter her along this path. I am tremendously proud of Leanne and her accomplishments, and wish her the best for her career.