Monday, June 8, 2009

Taiwan’s finest violinists plan to honor beloved teacher Sylvia Shu-te Lee on her 80th birthday

By Nancy T. Lu
Just about every successful violinist from Taiwan cites Sylvia Shu-te Lee as personal violin mentor in their biodata. The names read like a Who’s Who list: Lin Cho-liang, Hu Nai-yuan, Su Hsien-da, Chien Ming-yen and so on. They are all coming home and gathering to fete her on her 80th birthday this September.

The violinists have readily agreed to juggle their hectic schedules around to join the celebration. Some of the finest violinists taught by Lee will perform for her. Lin Cho-liang will even teach three students in a master class after the first of two concerts.

Artists like New York-based Lin Cho-liang and Hu Nai-yuan have international careers to keep up but they never fail to get in touch with their earliest violin teacher whenever they come back for concert engagements.

On his last visit, Lin, in fact, quickly drew up the concert repertoire for Lee’s former and present students to play in her honor at two planned concerts first in her hometown in Pingtung County on September 12 and then at the National Concert Hall in Taipei on September 13. Piazzolla, Vivaldi and Sarasate are some of the composers to be interpreted to warm the heart of the “godmother” to Taiwan’s violinists. The program featuring three or four generations of violinists will be capped by the “Happy Birthday Song.”

Lee revealed: “Four months were all it took for me to decide whether a child showed promise or not. A child’s feeling for tone and his musicality were what decided whether a child should keep on studying violin. Unlike technique, which could be learned, musicality was a gift.”

“She did not teach me how to fiddle,” said Chen Chin-hung. “She pointed out my failings and I was left to figure out for myself how to improve. Her teaching method put emphasis on a child’s independence. She was strict but she made me cry in front of her only once. I cried many times after dashing out of the room used for my violin lessons.”

Lee picked her students. She recalled yesterday: “I would teach two hours in the morning at the National Taiwan Normal University. And then I was off to Hsinchu to give violin lessons to Lin Cho-liang. And then I was off to Taichung. I could sleep anywhere. But in the morning I was in Tainan. Sometimes I went to Kaohsiung first. I slept in Pingtung and then proceeded to Tainan. And the next morning I headed for Taipei, arriving at 5:30 in the morning. I was ready to go to class at 9 a.m.”

In those days, most of Lee’s students were boys. Cheng Chun-teng described his experience with Lee: “The student before me would come out of the room crying. And so I dreaded my encounter with my violin teacher. She stressed on the precision of the musical notes. She pushed me to my limit. I had to find my way myself. But she would end up patting me on my head.”

Lee’s students have truly fond memories of the summer camps in Guanziling or elsewhere with her. Although she never married, she became like a mother to all her violin students. She even took them dining in a fine eatery in those days.

Lee even toured the Philippines and the United States with her students. She made sure that they had prepared well before their departure. She also got them ready to join competitions. The intense rivalry for top honor just dissipated after the contests. The boys went back to their old camaraderie.

Pingtung County Magistrate Tsao Chi-hung has good reason to be exceptionally proud of Sylvia Shu-te Lee for her great contribution to the music education of Taiwan’s finest violinists. In fact, he is giving his full support to the concert in Pingtung County to honor the hometown favorite octogenarian on her birthday.

Concert tickets cost from NT$400 to NT$2000. Call tel. (02)2771-5676 in Taipei and tel. (08)765-5852 in Pingtung.

Black-and-white file picture provided by Ars Formosa Company shows Hu Nai-yuan playing solo. The other file photo captures the smiling Lin Cho-liang with mentor Sylvia Shu-te Lee. Photo in full color taken by Nancy T. Lu shows Lee wih four students representing different generations.

No comments:

Post a Comment