We had the good fortune of connecting with Yan Shen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Yan, can you tell us about how does your business help the community or the world?
This is actually a question that I have been thinking about during the COVID-19 pandemic period. As a concert pianist, like most classical musicians, I have spent my entire life practicing – both trying to be a better artist and to become more successful on the concert stage. With the pandemic, everything in the arts world shut down. Similar to most concert artists, I lost my summer concert tour in China (with ten concerts) and many other concerts. Even worse than the disappointment of losing concerts has been the fear that I might catch the virus at any time, and the outcome would be unknown. There was a period in March when I was overwhelmed by feelings of panic and anxiousness. But then, after a few weeks, I started to re-think the whole situation and look inside myself. I kept asking myself the same questions – “why do I play piano? what is the real purpose of being a classical musician?” In the meantime, I saw all the negative information about COVID-19, politics, racism, and I felt the fear and worries that people had. I saw the rise of hatred within people and countries. I wondered why the world becomes like this. I started to realize that what I lost during the pandemic was nothing compared to what the whole world lost. I hope we won’t lose our humanity. Inspired by my friend Brain Combs, I created a virtual collaborative chamber concert series during this period with my friends from all over the world: Marie Pallot (Violinist, France), Raphael Chretien (Cellist, France), Gulielmo De Stasio (Violinist, Italy), Jones Timothy (Bariton, USA), Qi Yan (Flutist, China), and posted these collaborations on my Youtube channel under the topic “One World: We are the Same.” Even though we are different ethnicities and we are from different counties, we are all living on the Earth, the only Earth, we are the same, we are equal. This little series gets lots of positive reviews and resonates among people. I think that is what we can do to help our community and the world – we spread positive energy through our universal language of music; and try to make the world a better place to live. This is more satisfying and meaningful than my personal success. In time, I fully believe that our work and humanity will come back to normal.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally? Please tell us more about your art.We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story ?
As a concert pianist I perform as a solo pianist and chamber musician. I also work at the Moores School of Music (University of Houston) as a part time staff pianist and I own a private studio with 20 students. The rest of my time is dedicated to practicing for new concerts. During the summer and winter breaks, I travel to China and Europe to give concerts and master classes. I also give solo piano recitals or concertos with orchestras and perform in chamber concerts collaborating with my wonderful musician friends. Although I have received many compliments on my work, I don’t really think about being proud because there are many other excellent pianists. But, I am very happy with, and exciting about, my life of music making in the very special world of classical music. I have been through quite a lot to be here today. I started my first piano lessons when I was 6, and I earned a faculty job in Xinghai Conservatory of Music in Guangzhou, China after I earned my Master’s Degree at the Wuhan Conservatory. After 5 years of teaching in the Conservatory, I quit my job, and everyone around me was in a huge shock – I am proud of myself for that difficult decision. Although I gave up security and a prestigious position, I was following my heart totally and I knew I needed a bigger stage with more freedom. I came to the United States against huge pressure from my family and friends and started to pursue my Doctoral Degree at the Moores School of Music, thanks to Timothy Hester, my piano instructor for 7 years. When I started to play piano with more heart and musical artistry, I knew I had made the right decision. And here I am, expressing my music on stage with a happier soul, and my family gradually accepted my new life and has started to be proud of me. I do not think I am qualified to teach life lessons to anyone, but what I do know is that you will eventually be happier if you follow your heart always.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
China town, Central China Restaurant, Cafe 101, Kung Fu Tea, Chengdu Taste, Thai Gourmet, Mama’s Kitchen, Hu’s Kitchen, Tufu Village, 100% Taquito, Rice Village, Cafe Brioche, Sweet Paris, Giacomo’s Cibo e Vino, Houston Fine Arts Museum, the Museum district, the Galleria, Houston Premium Outlet Mall, etc.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to give a Shoutout to Moores School of Music, Houston Kawai Gallery, Texas New Music Ensemble, as well as my Houston-based artists: Ron Ochoa(Composer, Trumpet Player); Chad Robinson (Composer, Artistic Director of TNME) , Mark Rodrieg (Flutist, Artist Director of the Rodrieg Ensemble) ; Richard A Mintz (Artist Director of Charles Bender Performing Arts Center; President/CEO of Symphony North of Houston).