The New York Philharmonic

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Chinese violinist Shanshan Yao joined the New York Philharmonic in September 2013. Previously, she was a member of the first violin section of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for four years. She recently performed Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, led by music director Manfred Honeck, as well as with the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic. As a soloist Ms. Yao has also performed with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Calgary Civic Symphony, Banff Centre Chamber Orchestra, and Japan’s Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra. In February 2009 she received critical acclaim for her debut recital at Canada National Arts Centre in Ottawa. She was invited to appear in a special performance for former Secretary of State Colin Powell at the Eisenhower Fellowships conference in Philadelphia in 2006. Ms. Yao served on the faculty of Carnegie Mellon University’s Pre-College Music Program in the summer of 2013.

Ms. Yao’s numerous honors include first prizes in the Calgary Concerto Competition and Morningside Music Bridge Concerto Competition (Canada), second prizes in the Shean String Competition (Canada) and Hellam Young Artists Competition (U.S.), as well as prizes in the Corpus Christi International Competition for Piano and Strings (U.S.) and the Michael Hill International Violin Competition (New Zealand). As one of the winners of the CBC Radio’s Up and Coming series, a showcase of promising young talents, she shared the stage with pianist Jon Kimura Parker.

An active chamber musician, Ms. Yao has participated in the Aspen, Summit, and Sarasota music festivals; Music from Angel Fire; The Banff Centre; and Music@Menlo, where she served as a chamber music coach in 2009. Her piano trio won second prize in the National Music Festival in Canada in 2002. Ms. Yao has collaborated with such renowned artists as Ida Kavafian, Steve Tenenbom, Jeremy Denk, and Ransom Wilson.

A violinist since the age of six, Ms. Yao enrolled at Shanghai Conservatory of Music when she was nine. She made her orchestral debut at the age of 12 with the Shanghai Radio Symphony Orchestra, and continued her studies in Canada as a full-scholarship student in Mount Royal Conservatory’s Academy Program. Shanshan Yao received her bachelor of music degree from The Curtis Institute of Music and her master of music degree from The Juilliard School. Her teachers included Aaron Rosand, Donald Weilerstein, Ronald Copes, William van der Sloot, and Xiaoming Wu.

“My mom told me: “You cannot expect other people to think the way you do. You should try to think from their perspective.” I always feel that the world would have less conflict if we all had that attitude.”

Q&A with Shanshan Yao

THE FACTS: Born in Huainan, China. Bachelor of Music from The Curtis Institute of Music; Master of Music from The Juilliard School. Prior to the Philharmonic: first violinist in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. At the Philharmonic: Joined September 2013.

WHAT WAS THE FIRST PIECE OF MUSIC YOU FELL IN LOVE WITH? My dad bought some audiotapes from the music store, and one of them had Schubert’s Trout Quintet on it. I fell in love with the melodies and couldn’t stop listening to and humming them.

HOW DID YOU START PLAYING VIOLIN? When I was in kindergarten I was very active and danced and sang a lot. My teacher thought I was somewhat musical so she talked to my parents and introduced me to a violin teacher.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU WANTED TO BE A PROFESSIONAL MUSICIAN? I entered the primary music school attached to the Shanghai Conservatory at the age of nine. That was when my violin teacher and parents made the decision that I would pursue being a professional musician. When I was young, I didn’t realize how much I loved music. As time went by, my love for music has deepened and now I can’t imagine not being a musician. I am truly thankful for the path they chose for me and grateful to do what I love.

MOST INSPIRING COMPOSERS? I love Brahms. I always feel his music is filled with passion, yearning, and love. I’ve read his letters to Clara Schumann: his words are so passionate. Each of his works is a masterpiece.

WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME? I love nature, walking around NYC and discovering its delicious restaurants, and cooking.

WHAT ARE YOU READING RIGHT NOW? Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO? Frank Sinatra, and Arthur Grumiaux playing Mozart violin concertos

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER GOTTEN? My mom told me: “You cannot expect other people to think the way you do. You should try to think from their perspective.” I always feel that the world would have less conflict if we all had that attitude.

As of February 2016
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