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Some of the scholarship students hold their certificates, including Kong Gne (bottow row, second from right
Some of the scholarship students hold their certificates, including Kong Gne (bottow row, second from right. Nick Street

Scholarship awards keeping classical and folk arts alive

Twenty-five young people were awarded scholarships to study traditional music and dance on Thursday, as arts organisation Cambodian Living Arts (CLA) launched a new school year.

The Arn-Chorn Pond Living Arts Scholarships for the school year 2013-14, named after the organisation’s founder, will give music and dance students the opportunity to develop both musical and professional skills.

The scheme is part of CLA’s mission to contribute to the arts in Cambodia by developing the skills of artists and helping them find paid work in the field.

In a ceremony that featured speeches and performances from past and present scholarship students, two different kinds of scholarships were awarded: an Artistic Skills Development Scholarship, for students and professionals who wish to received advanced training in the arts, and a Non-Artistic Skills for Artists Scholarship, which can fund any kind of study, as long as the recipient can explain how it will help them professionally.

Kong Gne, 24, is a student of the chapei dang weng, a two-stringed, long-necked guitar. Originally from Svay Rieng province near the Vietnam border, Gne moved to Phnom Penh in 2011 to study tourism and hospitality at the National University and started learning to play the chapei dang weng at CLA.

He was awarded a scholarship last year and this year which allows him to study English at the Australian Centre for Education. He also receives a stipend of $50 per month.

Gne said: “I never imagined in my life that I could get a scholarship. It’s very important for me to study English – when I came to Phnom Penh I couldn’t speak the language, but thanks to Cambodian Living Arts I started to study step by step.”

He continued: “If I hadn’t received the scholarship, I might not be able to speak English. Also I can get some money – the $50 pays for gasoline for my moto or my food.”

CLA’s founder, acclaimed musician Arn Chorn-Pond, said he was honoured to present the awards, and stressed the importance of carrying on the country’s traditions.

“The scholarship gives opportunities to young people to enhance what they have learned from Cambodian Living Arts, especially traditional music.

“I think it’s very important for young people to learn about their past and their culture through the arts.”

Chorn-Pond, a former child soldier under the Khmer Rouge regime, also expressed his belief that arts can play a role in healing trauma.

“There are now more and more opportunities for young people to get jobs in the arts.

“We can use arts to heal the wounds of the war, the killing fields and spread this art around the world and use it as a model. If it works here, it works everywhere else. The arts have no borders.”

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