The new partnership of Idyllwild Arts with Soul Music & Performing Arts Academy connects Idyllwild Arts to Vietnam’s wide and deep reservoir of talent while giving Vietnamese young people “the kinds of choices and pathways forward that every child deserves,” according to Soul Music & Performing Arts Academy founder Thanh Bui, interviewed via Zoom on Aug. 25.
Idyllwild Arts runs an internationally acclaimed residential arts high school, Idyllwild Arts Academy, and an equally revered arts Summer Program on its forested 205-acre campus in the mountains of Southern California.
The partnership between Idyllwild Arts and Soul Music & Performing Arts Academy will facilitate student, faculty, and course exchanges that Bui, an award-winning Australia-born singer/songwriter, believes can make a profound difference in Vietnam by helping its people “break down borders and share experiences” with people around the world. Idyllwild Arts has sought to do exactly this since its founding three quarters of a century ago.
Bui elected to partner with Idyllwild Arts instead of some other U.S. arts high school because of our “great academics.” He is deeply impressed by the quality of artistic instruction and talent at Idyllwild Arts. However, he knows that many of our graduates don’t seek careers in the arts. But he also knows they discover that the encouragement of creativity which is intrinsic to an arts education makes them happier in any career they choose, as well as happier in life.
Bui is the right person to spearhead a venture as ambitious as Soul Music & Performing Arts Academy. He is an irrepressible optimist who won’t rule out the possibility that “just as Korea’s artists have enabled their country to take global ownership of the letter K, one day Vietnam’s artists can own the letter V!”
Arts for a Changing Country
If V stands for victory, Bui’s mere residence in Ho Chi Minh City represents a victory for optimism. He was born in 1983 in Adelaide, Australia’s coastal “city of churches.” Later, his family moved to Melbourne. As a child he successively idolized two Michaels: the Chinese-American tennis champion Michael Chang, who “looked like me,” and then Michael Jackson. After Jackson had inspired Bui’s success in performing, composing, and producing music, his fame in Vietnam inspired the dream of moving there “because I’d been given so many opportunities in Australia and I believed Vietnamese children should have the same chances.”
His mother was horrified that her son would want to return to the country she and her husband had fled in the mid-Seventies, almost dying three times during their escape.
Bui’s nine years in Ho Chi Minh City have convinced his mother that Vietnam is not the same place that it was during the war that lasted from 1955 to 1975. Yet if Vietnam is no longer a violent country, neither is it a rich one.
“Everything is beginning here,” Bui says. “The pool of talent is huge, but we need proper infrastructure to develop it. Fortunately, so many of our artists who’ve somehow managed to succeed feel as I do: that their place is here, teaching young Vietnamese artists to follow in their footsteps. Soul Music & Performing Arts Academy has a wonderful faculty of teaching artists. Teachers like that are what our young artists deserve.”
He pauses. As he often does, he smiles.
“You know, when you consider what the arts do for the soul, access to them should be a human right for all.”
It’s clear that Soul Music & Performing Arts Academy is an ideal partner for Idyllwild Arts in terms not only of artistic resources, but of motivating spirit.