This month we interviewed Emily Shen who began playing violin with SDYS in 1981 and traveled alongside other SDYS musicians on the tour through China. Learn more about her China Tour experience, including what she learned and how it changed her.

What was your favorite moment from the 1981-1982 China tour?

I thought it was fantastic that a group of brass players brought their instruments up the Great Wall and performed.  In Guangzhou, the symphony members would race back to the hotel following rehearsal where many delicious Chinese snacks and tea would be awaiting us. Also I got a chance to see where each of my parents lived during their childhood in Shanghai.

What did you take away/learn from this trip?

I learned two things from this trip. a) With this being my first international trip, I knew that I wanted to explore more of the world. b) Music is a universal language. Even if you do not speak the language of the country, you still can communicate through the magic of music.

Did it change you in anyway?

During my childhood, I never had to worry about money, food to eat and a roof over my head.  My parents always provided. I never thought about this until I went to China, I realized how lucky I was.

Are you still playing your instrument?

Unfortunately in 1983, a benign brain tumor, known as a craniophyranginoma, was removed from the left side of my brain. When I awoke 5 days following the surgery, I could not speak and move my right side. I spent almost three months in the hospital, learning to use my right side again. Luckily, my sight returned to my left eye. For the following two years, I refused to have anything to do with classical music, until one day, I heard a pianist playing a piece written for the one hand. I still play piano, and sometime play on the baby grand in the VA. I also am an ardent alto singer, who has sung with the UCSD Gospel Choir and La Jolla Symphony Choir. Now I sing only for my church, going to rehearsals every Thursday evening.

What are you up to now?

I currently work for the VA San Diego Healthcare, as a Program Support Assistant for the Infectious Disease Department. I mainly work on grants, and editing of scientific papers. I also tutor kids in math after work.

San Diego Youth Symphony