Shengyu Meng, 15, is from Shanghai, China. This is her second year studying with Clive Greensmith in the Music Academy.
This interview has been lightly edited for style, content, and clarity.
Why did you decide to study at Colburn?
At that time, I was already considering moving to the US to study, since you know, Chinese people want to move to the US to study. I was looking for schools, and just at the right time, Colburn had auditions in Shanghai. I went to audition and Colburn has more famous teachers, so I decided that it was the right time to move to the US.
Why do Chinese people want to move to the US to study?
I was studying at the Shanghai Conservatory so everyone played music. And you know, cellos are not from China, so we want to go to the US for a better education.
How has the Music Academy been so far?
It’s a really good experience here. I’ve learned things that I couldn’t learn when I was in China. There are a lot of challenges for me that all the students have, so those challenges have pushed me to go forward. That’s a really good thing for me.
What kind of challenges?
So, last year I was in a string quartet. It was my first year at Colburn. All the string quartet members are really good, and they were juniors or seniors. And I was just the freshman, and I was like uhh, they’re so good. My ability then was not that good, so it was a really big challenge for me. In a string quartet, people need to work together, so if they’re at different levels, it’s just not going to fit. So I was trying really hard to catch up. At the end of the semester, I personally felt like we were at the same level.
What has your most memorable experience here been?
Last year, in December, there was a chamber music concert in the Academy, and we were playing Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 6, third movement. Mendelssohn wrote this piece after his sister passed away. At that time, one of our quartet member’s grandma had also just passed away. After that, we played this piece on the concert and we were really touched. All four of us were really touched and we almost cried. It was a really good experience, because we all felt the sadness together.
What do you like about chamber music?
I wasn’t studying chamber music that seriously when I was in China, so when I went to the Academy, I was suddenly receiving a really high quality of chamber music education from my teacher Mr. Greensmith. It really interested me because I think it will be a goal for me to become a string quartet member in the future.
What are you performing on Thursday’s Rush Hour?
I will be playing Dvořák’s Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104. It’s a hard piece. Dvořák wrote this piece when his first love, a girl named Josefina Kaunitzova, was seriously ill. So of course, he was really sad about this and he put a lot of passion and energy into this piece. It’s kind of hard to present those passions because I always get really tired in the middle of the piece, so I don’t have energy to play the rest. That’s a really big challenge for me.
How does understanding the history of a piece help you when you’re playing?
Some people won’t be as nervous as other people on stage, and if I think of some stories when I’m playing on stage, it will help me to be less nervous.
Why did you choose this piece?
This piece is really passionate, as I said before. I’m a really open and positive person so I like to play pieces that are passionate because I feel like it fits my heart really well. That’s why I love Dvořák so much, because I can put all of my moods inside the piece.
What do you hope to do in the future?
I want to be a person like my teacher Mr. Greensmith, so playing in a string quartet maybe, or a piano trio. I want to get into focusing on chamber music, as well as solo performing and teaching, all three together. That would be good.
What are your interests outside music?
I like swimming. I like to go the beach so much, but my mom doesn’t. I always tell my mom I want to go to the beach, and she says, oh maybe next week. It’s always like that. According to my teacher, after he swims, his bow arm gets better. I hope. So that’s like why I like swimming.
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