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Friday, March 10, 2017

From China to America: Bridging Cultures With Music | KCTS 9 - Arts & Culture

Photo: Peter W. Choi
"How Shirley Wang is defying Asian music stereotypes with an unlikely instrument — the guzheng." notes Peter W. Choi, joined KCTS 9 in October of 2016 as a production intern.

Shirley Wang (right) gives a music lesson to her student, Zhaojun Zhao (right).

When Shirley Wang plucks the 21 multi-colored strings of her guzheng in front of an audience in Seattle, she hopes its soothing sounds will transport them to the ancient Chinese stories from which the songs originate. The guzheng, a member of the zither family, has a 2,500-year history.

“Not many people learn Chinese instruments here,” Wang says. “I want to bring more Chinese music to Seattle.”

Guzheng Harp 


Her passion for music was formed early in life. She learned the guzheng in Mongolia, when she was 6 years old. Her father wanted her to learn something related to Chinese culture.

“I decided to learn this one because I felt like it was just so easy. You can just make something happen,” She says, plucking a string. “Sounds amazing.”

Wang’s childhood was rich with music. Her elementary school offered music lessons and a before-and-after school music program that she participated in.

Wang continued her musical studies through graduate school at the China Conservatory of Music. She also pursued her passion for the instrument and for Chinese music by performing across the country and teaching students at guzheng institutions in Beijing.

“Another Chinese music teacher and I decided to found a Chinese music club as an after-school program,” says Wang. “They all (children) should have an opportunity to learn about Chinese culture,” says Wang.

After completing graduate school in Beijing in 2010, Wang and her husband moved to Seattle. Wang recently completed a graduate program at Seattle University and currently runs a temporary music studio in Bellevue with over 40 students.

Music belongs to the whole world.
Zhaojun Zhao is one of Wang’s students. Unlike many of her Chinese-American peers, who gravitate towards Western music and instruments, Zhao was drawn to the guzheng because of the instrument’s role in Chinese storytelling. She particularly enjoys learning about the context and background of each piece she plays.

“The meanings and stories that I can get out of Chinese music are deeper,” Zhao says.
Zhao says that learning the instrument has brought her comfort when she was feeling down.

“For me, it’s really calming and chill,” says Zhao. “I had been learning this instrument when I was in China. I liked it so much that I wanted to continue that here.”
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Source: KCTS 9 and What's Good 206 Channel (YouTube)


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