Award-Winning Piano Teacher Praises Shen Yun’s Music and Unique Instrumentation

February 8, 2014

DETROIT—Shen Yun Performing Arts’ portrayal of traditional Chinese culture at the Detroit Opera House on Feb. 7 opened up a whole new world for award-winning piano teacher Alyssa Sleiman.

“I loved it! It was so beautiful,” Ms. Sleiman said of the renowned classical Chinese dance and music production.

“I really appreciated the music—the different instrumentation. Definitely showed the Chinese culture, opened my eyes at least to the Chinese culture. I didn’t know any of that before.”

Ms. Sleiman is the owner of Sonata Piano Studio in Tecumseh, Ontario, Canada, where she teaches classical, contemporary, and pop music to students of all ages.

She has accompanied vocal studios and theatre choirs on many occasions for over 15 years. She was recently awarded a Medal of Excellence from Conservatory Canada for receiving the highest mark in piano pedagogy in the province of Ontario.

Accompanying Ms. Sleiman was Sean Layfield, an electrical engineer based in Windsor, Ontario. Mr. Layfield said it was his first time attending a performance at the Detroit Opera House, which enhanced his enjoyment of the show.

“I did enjoy it and obviously the Opera House is beautiful too so that kind of adds to the show,” he said.

“The instruments and the show itself—really good,” he added.

Ms. Sleiman was highly impressed by Shen Yun’s vocal soloists, whose operatic performances sung in bel canto style with Chinese lyrics require arduous training and have been mastered by few in the world, according to the Shen Yun website.

“I think it was absolutely beautiful. I’ve never seen opera done with Chinese language,” she said.

“I was just explaining to Sean that most operas are done in Italian the traditional way, but this is the first time I’ve seen classical music applied to Chinese culture. And the dancing that accompanied it, I thought was so beautiful. It matched very well.”

“The tenor performance—that one was absolutely beautiful,” she added.

Shen Yun’s unique orchestra is composed of traditional Chinese instruments, which carry the melodies, and Western instruments, which provide the foundation to the music—something that also drew Ms. Sleiman’s admiration

”I was interested in the Chinese instrumentation they used. I’ve never seen orchestra where the set-up was around Chinese instruments. … It was set differently so that it could accommodate the Chinese instruments into it too. It was very beautiful,” she said.

Shen Yun features mainly classical Chinese dance, portraying legendary stories and heroes from the Middle Kingdom’s 5,000-year history. The show is also rounded out by presentations of ethnic and folk dances representing China’s many dynasties and regions.

Several different pieces stood out for Ms. Sleiman, including Lotuses in Bloom and Mongolian Chopsticks.

“I liked the chopsticks. They used those as instrumentation as they’re playing along with the orchestra while dancing—it’s so impressive the way they did that. That was really cool,” she said.

But it was The Steadfast Lotus, a story-based dance, that touched her on a deeper level.

That piece depicts the plight of practitioners of Falun Gong in their peaceful resistance to the modern-day persecution by the Chinese regime. A young girl is left alone after her mother is taken away by police. Although she endures tribulations searching for her mother, her steadfast faith gives her newfound hope.

“I almost started crying because it was so beautiful when she finally met her mother,” said Ms. Sleiman.

Mr. Layfield said the show held his attention from beginning to end.

“The entire show kept me interested. There was always a lot going on. There was a lot of colors and a lot of dancing. That was really nice to see.”

Reporting by Charlie Lu and Joan Delaney

New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. For more information, visit

The Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reactions since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.

Detroit, United States
Shen Yun World Company