Scholarships help needy students while preserving Khmer culture

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Arn Chorn Pond scholarship students. KT/Say Tola

Cambodian Living Arts has launched an event to welcome 10 new students into the Arn Chorn Pond Living Arts scholarship programme, and to congratulate its 13 most recent graduates. At an event at the National Museum last week, the students participated in a wonderful display of performances, presentations, and songs.

According to Hang Rithyravuth, dean of music at the Royal University of Fine Arts, the scholarships are aimed to help marginalised and low-income people. The assistance helps the students boost their abilities while also contributing to the preservation of lesser-known Khmer art forms.

The last year’s programme was hailed as very productive for all students.

“It is a very worthwhile scholarship, as it both promotes Khmer culture and improves the ability of needy students. I have seen some recipients go on to become leaders in the arts, including choreographers and instructors,” Mr Rithyravuth said.

Still, there are gaps that need to be filled. For example, he said, “Few scholarship students want to study the one string or pin [traditional instruments] because they are hard to learn and are not seen as providing a good income.”

Of the most recent crop of recipients, two students chose to study the one string and only one student choose to study pin. The rest chose to study English and some form of visual art.

He said all successful applicants had to go through three selection phases: they had to make a shortlist based on a written application discussing their background; then successfully engage in activity involving teamwork; and finally pass an interview.

“We, judges, mainly focused on their commitment to learning and preserving the classical arts, as well as they particular skill they sought to study [placing priority on the rarest forms], and their family’s financial condition [with the neediest getting priority],” Mr Rithyravuth said.

Chan Rithy, a blind Arn Chorn Pond scholarship student, said applied for a scholarship to study one string because he had loved the instrument for a long time, but had never had the money or opportunity to study.

“One string is in danger of disappearing because not many people know how to play it. By conducting research at university, I hope to learn more about Khmer instruments,” he said.

Mr Rithy said the scholarships are very helpful for those who can’t afford to study the arts that they love. “It helped me with my daily expenses as well as tuition,” he said.

Mr Rithy urged all youths to learn more about Khmer musical instruments. Moreover, youth should understand more about their Khmer culture, which is a heritage passed down from their ancestors. If they knew more about it, they would love it and try to preserve all of it, he said. He urged local media to do more to promote the classical Khmer arts in order to ensure that they are passed on to the next
generation.

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