Tender and talented

Posted: September 7th, 2018 | Featured, News | No Comments

By B. J. Coleman

Chinese Historical museum celebrates young musical prodigies

For the first time in its history, the Bravo! International Music Academy (BIMA) brought a collaborative concert of talented young Asian and Asian-American musicians to Downtown’s San Diego Chinese Historical Museum (SDCHM) on Aug. 11. Staging of classical string performances filled the SDCHM’s Dr. Chuang Archive & Learning Center with attendees eager to hear beautiful music during the concert titled “A Bridge to Connect.”

BIMA taps highly promising young classical musicians for two-week intensive summertime musical training sessions and performances at San Diego State University and nearby venues. The nonprofit organization’s mission is to educate and support young classical music students who play stringed instruments and piano, to further their studies for careers as professional musicians.

Chinese dancers performing at the University Club atop Symphony Towers at an opening reception for a 20th-century art exhibit for club members. (Courtesy of Gates Photography)

The Downtown concert featured musicians ranging in age from 11 to 19. These youthful violinists and viola player delivered a lively and lovely concert of exquisite musicianship for their tender years. Students came to San Diego from Beijing, Hong Kong, Texas, Boston and Cleveland.

The Chuang Center offers a small, intimate concert venue with excellent acoustics from the wood and brick interior walls. The interior was decorated for the concert with simple Chinese lanterns.

Michael Yee, chairman of the board of directors of SDCHM, welcomed concertgoers. “Your attendance here is wonderful. Please enjoy the performance and this partnership for the rest of the day, including the reception afterward in the museum’s Building 1.”

Stanny Shiu, founder and executive director of BIMA, introduced the program of professors, artistic advisors, and students before the performances.

Michael Ma, artistic advisor of BIMA, is head of strings at Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts. He praised Shiu for initiating and growing the program since its inception. “She has been here from the beginning and made this all possible,” he said. “I consider this a real privilege to be here.”

The student performances included three solo violin pieces, a duet, a trio and a quartet ensemble. The music was in turn moving, bittersweet, intricate and dramatic. These young musicians demonstrated great stage presence and mastery of their instruments.

Matthew Ho of Texas, 15, appeared as a soloist and in the trio and quartet performances. Invited to say a few remarks on stage, Ho said, “Music unites us. Music breaks barriers. Whatever your language, your location, wherever you come from, this music brings us together.”

The garden outside the nearby SDCHM Building 1 held the reception after the concert. Attendees interacted with performers or toured the inside museum rooms, which display historical artifacts and information about San Diego’s Chinatown and early area events significant for San Diego’s Chinese-Americans.

Artistic advisor Ma spoke about his assessment of the student musicians. “I am really convinced that we underestimate children,” Ma said. “The best part for me is that these students are so advanced in mind. They are mature for their age. As a teacher, I give them as much as they can handle. This is a good approach. They can handle almost anything.”

Ma continued, discussing these youthful performers’ interactions during the immersion lessons and practice sessions. “They have the capacity to be very compassionate,” Ma said. “They help each other. These are remarkable young people. They are wonderful human beings.”

Yee, who has been involved with SDCHM for 30 years, stated that he returned as board chairman in 2016.

Painting by contemporary Chinese artist Yihong Zhou, from the summertime exhibition at the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum extension. (Photo by B. J. Coleman)

“I am amazed and pleased at the brilliance of these young musicians,” Yee said. “This is a good way for the museum to connect with the younger generation.”

Yee described the museum facilities expansion from the original Building 1 to include in 2004 Building 2, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Extension, an open gallery that hosted a summertime show of artwork by contemporary Chinese painter Yihong Zhou. The Chuang Center, referred to as Building 3, followed in 2013.

Zhou’s paintings are uniquely expressive, depicting Chinese citizens in common activities of daily life over the past few decades. Zhou taught visual arts at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology as is a member of the Shenzhen Artists Association. The Zhou exhibit “Emotions and Landscapes” closed on Aug. 11. The fall-through-winter exhibition at the extension, set to open on Sept. 15, will show the 16th-19th century Chinese export porcelain.

This is one of many programs that SDCHM participates in to bring awareness of this unique museum of Chinese art. In July, it teamed with the University Club atop Symphony Towers for a members-only reception displaying several pieces of 20th-century Chinese paintings and calligraphy.

Polly Liew, SDCHM director and chair of the Selection Committee curated the exhibit.

“I thought I would bring them pieces that have historical value,” Liew said. “I picked calligraphy from our founding father, and our first president’s calligraphies. Also I included some of our famous artists from Taiwan. I am an art lover. All of the pieces have different styles. Some tedious, fine and some modern, more impressionist. Some of them are amazing, it’s like they have a magic brush.”

Charlotte Hartwell, University Club members relations coordinator, said the club has quarterly art exhibits, all unique, with openings for each of them. “This is a wonderful exhibit and we also coordinate a reception later at the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum, which is a good way to connect the community and the art world to our membership,” Harwell said.

Frank Busic, University Club manager, said there are many facets within the club that make it happen.

“This is a member function that bonds the membership with outside activity coming in,” Busic said. “Our membership has a lot of nonprofits within its membership but exposing them to a wonderful amenity like this helps build membership. The University Club is an invitation-only club, but if someone does not have a connection at the club, they are welcome to set up a tour through members relations, get an idea of what the club is about and also become introduced to some existing members.”

Information about events and museum hours can be found online at, or by phone at 619-338-9888. For more information about the University Club, visit

—B.J. Coleman is a local freelance journalist and editor/staff reporter with 22nd District Legionnaire. B.J. can be reached at

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