Professor: Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra ‘One of the Great Experiences of My Life’

October 11, 2014

NEW YORK—Through the centuries, no other ensemble has been able to blend the sounds of East and West, but Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra does it on a grand scale.

“It was one of the great experiences of my life,” said University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth professor Mel Yoken after seeing the Carnegie Hall performance with his son Andrew on the night of Saturday Oct. 11. “It was truly one of the apogees of our stay in New York City,” Dr. Yoken said.

Among his peers, Dr. Yoken is known for his passion and commitment to French culture and language. He is the director of the school’s Boivin Center for French Language and Culture and has published seven books, as well as many other articles and essays, in and about the French language.

Culture is one of Dr. Yoken’s great passions, and the orchestra presents a side of Chinese culture many have not been in touch with before.

Founded in 2006, New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts seeks to revive 5,000 years of the divinely inspired Chinese culture, which was once nearly lost during the Cultural Revolution. Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra combines about 100 musicians from Shen Yun’s four touring companies to create a symphony featuring ancient Chinese instruments.

Many of the pieces performed are original Shen Yun compositions. Others were classical masterpieces and familiar songs like “Bugler’s Holiday” by the American composer Leroy Anderson. Behind all of Shen Yun’s music, according to the website, is the belief that these classical traditions are divine gifts.

“Bravo!” Dr. Yoken said. “When we go back, we are going to talk about it to our students, to our colleagues, the faculty of Brown and University of Massachusetts.”

‘You Fly With It’

Alex Guardia (R) saw Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra for the third time and brought friends Ty Spain and Rei Spain to the performance at Carnegie Hall, Oct. 11, 2014. (Catherine Yang/Epoch Times)
Alex Guardia (R) saw Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra for the third time and brought friends Ty Spain and Rei Spain to the performance at Carnegie Hall, Oct. 11, 2014. (Catherine Yang/Epoch Times)

The orchestra debuted in Carnegie Hall in 2012, and has returned every year since. Alex Guardia has done likewise.

“It’s just the passion of the musicians. The passion of the music is just amazing,” Mr. Guardia said. Even having seen the orchestra perform before, the seamless blend of ancient Chinese music and Western symphony was still unbelievable for Mr. Guardia.

“The music always goes through your body and it goes through your mind and you fly with it,” Mr. Guardia said. “You know, you let the music take you places and you use your imagination, you want to be able to feel it. So you have to feel it, that’s the way I feel.”

The performance also includes solo vocalists. Shen Yun vocalists sing in the bel canto style, even when the songs are original Chinese compositions. According to Shen Yun’s website, ancient Chinese drama and early European opera used very similar vocal techniques.

This year, Mr. Guardia invited his colleague Mr. Ty Spain and his wife Mrs. Rei Spain.

“It was amazing. Absolutely amazing,” Mr. Spain said. His parents both sing opera, and he had experience touring with a choir as well, so Mr. Spain wanted to feel close to the music.

Mr. Spain closed his eyes, “[because] I have a different relationship with it. So I’m listening for parts, I’m listening harmonies.”

Reporting by NTD Television and Catherine Yang

Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra is on a seven-city tour with performances in Boston, New York, Washington D.C., Toronto, Chicago, Miami, and Sarasota, through Oct. 27. For more information, visit

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Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra