NEPA Philharmonic: March Masterworks

Mendelssohn and Mozart Festival.jpgIf you’re a lover of classical music, then the NEPA Philharmonic has just the program to give you your fill! Their upcoming concert is the pinnacle of great orchestral programming, featuring works by classical greats, W.A. Mozart and Felix Mendelssohn. However, the icing on the cake, and what we’re most excited about here at the Valenches Music Company, is Chinese violinist, Miss Shanshan Yao and her performance of Mendelssohn’s well-loved violin concerto!

Read on for our Valenches Music Company exclusive interview with Ms. Yao — but first, a few details about the concert…

Mendelssohn & Mozart Festival

Who: The NEPA Philharmonic featuring violinist Shanshan Yao

What: Mendelssohn & Mozart Festival

Mendelssohn: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Intermezzo, Nocturne & Scherzo

Mendelssohn: Concerto in E Minor for Violin and Orchestra

Shanshan Yao, guest artist

Mozart: Symphony No. 41 in C Major “Jupiter”

When: Friday, March 8, 2013 @ 8:00 p.m.

Where: Scranton Cultural Center

Tickets: Call the Philharmonic Office at (570) 270 – 4444 or visit their website.

Concert Violinist: Shanshan Yao

Chinese violinist Shanshan Yao, a violinist since the age of six, has performed as a soloist with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Calgary Civic Symphony, Banff Centre Chamber Orchestra, and Japan’s Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra. She made her orchestral debut at the age of twelve with the Shanghai Radio Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Yao joined the first violin section of the Pittsburgh Symphony in 2009, while still pursuing her Master of Music Degree at The Juilliard School. In February 2009, her debut recital at the Canada National Arts Centre, Ottawa, received critical acclaim. She was also invited to appear in a special performance for former Secretary of State Colin Powell at the Eisenhower Fellowships Conference in Philadelphia. Ms. Yao is the recipient of numerous awards and prizes, and in addition to her performances with symphony orchestras, is an established chamber musician.

Valenches Music Company Exclusive Interview

Miss Shanshan Yao, Chinese violinist & guest artist of the NEPA Philharmonic

Miss Shanshan Yao, Chinese violinist & guest artist of the NEPA Philharmonic

VMC: You began studying the violin at age six in China. What influenced you to begin playing?

SY: I didn’t come from a musical family, but my mom loves music, so there was always music in the house as I grew up. While in kindergarten, I loved dancing and singing. My kindergarten teacher thought I was somewhat musical, so when her friend, a violin teacher, was opening a new class, she suggested that I should try it. That’s how I started. I guess it was somewhat a coincidence.

VMC: Once you began studying the violin, what was expected of you by your teacher and parents? Were you self-driven to practice?

SY: Neither my teacher, nor my parents forced me to choose music as my profession. I love music, but as a little kid, I wasn’t fond of practicing. The most important lesson I learned from my parents is not to give up – discipline. They always told me that if you decide to do something, try to do it well and don’t give up midway. As I grew up, since I enjoyed playing the violin, the practice part just fell into place.

VMC: At what point did you decide you’d play the violin professionally? What, then, did you change about your practice routine?

SY: When I was nine, I enrolled at the Music Primary School attached to Shanghai Conservatory of Music. I know it’s a very young age, but it was a different conservatory system in China. At that point, I started to practice much more, especially scales and etudes.

VMC: Can you describe the type of effort that went into your practice? Did goal-setting play a role in your progress?

SY: To have a goal before starting to practice always helps! In that way, you are not wasting time, and time actually goes faster. As people say, it’s not about quantity, but quality. For daily practice, I always start with scales and arpeggios and some basic exercises. For technique passages, I normally practice with different rhythms and bowings.

 “The most important lesson I learned from my parents is not to give up – discipline. They always told me that if you decide to do something, try to do it well and don’t give up midway.”


VMC: When did you get the violin you now perform on and how did you go about finding it?

SY: I play on a modern Chinese violin, made in 2008 and I bought it in 2009 in Beijing. I was borrowing violins from Curtis and Juilliard while I was a student. After joining the Pittsburgh Symphony, I needed to have my own instrument. I heard there are good violin makers in China, therefore, I traveled to a few different cities and found the one! I truly love my violin – it has a warm and sweet tone!

VMC: What are your musical plans and goals for the future?

SY: Besides performing, I love teaching! To work with kids, to witness their progress, means the world to me! I hope I’ll start to teach more in the future. As a member of the Pittsburg Symphony, I’m very active in bringing music to communities, which I started doing as a student at the Curtis Institute of Music. To share my love for music, bring music to hospitals, schools and more, is very special to me.

VMC: Do you have stage fright? If so, how do you handle it and can you give some advice for those of us who have yet to conquer it?

SY: Of course I get nervous when I perform on stage! I believe it’s important to understand that to be nervous on stage is normal, and there’s nothing wrong about it. With that mentality on stage, I often tell myself that instead of focusing on how to ‘not do something’, one shall try ‘to do something’. What I mean is that instead of trying to “avoid” making mistakes, we should focus on how to play beautiful phrases. I also find it helpful to breath and remember not to lock the knees.

VMC: When you’re not playing the violin, how do you fill your time? 

SY: I love nature. I love to read. I enjoy eating yummy food and I’ve started to enjoy swimming, among other things. I’d like to take some dance lessons in the future — that art form always excites me!

VMC: And finally, what reason can you give younger violinists for sticking with the violin?

SY: Follow your heart! I don’t think there needs to be a reason to play the violin, or any instrument. If you love music and enjoy playing, then that’s all you need!

We extend our gratitude to Ms. Shanshan Yao for taking her valuable time to do this interview. 

Don’t miss seeing this accomplished young violinist in action! Call the Philharmonic office today. (570) 270 – 4444.