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Bright Sheng and Yo-Yo Ma after the premiere of Seven Tunes Heard in China for Solo Violon cello in Orange County, California (1995).
[Photograph from Bright Sheng Papers, Box 1, Photographs. Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.

Collaboration is an integral part of working in the music world. Bright Sheng collaborates intimately with his professional colleagues, revising compositions to suit particular soloists or ensembles and co-writing his operatic and choral works with his librettists. As artistic advisor to the Silk Road Project, Sheng is also part of an international network of scholars and artists working together to explore the ways in which Europe, Asia, and the Middle East influenced each others' arts and cultures.

Left to Right: Bright Sheng, Aaron Copeland, and Leonard Bernstein at the Tanglewood Music Center when Sheng was a student in the Center's Composers' Workshop (1985).
[Photograph from Bright Sheng Papers, Box 1, Photographs. Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.]

For Sheng, another important relationship is that which takes place between students and teachers. When speaking about his experiences as both Leonard Bernstein's student and as a professor at the University of Michigan, Sheng highlights the special understanding and compassion that comes with the teacher-student bond:

"An important part of what I learned about teaching comes from studying with Leonard Bernstein. He had a special way of approaching things as a teacher. He made things easier to understand. A good teacher explains things in very simple terms. He decodes it and makes you believe that everything he can do, you can too."
~Bright Sheng, interview, Journal of the International Institute, Fall 1999.

Bright Sheng's View on Teaching
"As much as I value learning, I also value teaching greatly. Beyond the fact that I feel the need to share what I have learned from my experience as a practical musician, I also learn from the students I teach everyday. These young, energetic people give me inspiration, faith and immense mental vigor.

Teaching keeps me in touch with reality and makes me aware of my place in society and in the world of arts. ... I also strongly believe that the student-teacher relation goes beyond the boundaries of the classroom. So I try to be personable when approached.

I pay attention to what they learn and how they develop as a musician, and take interest in how they advance and mature in the academic environment. This is because when I was a student, the teachers who influenced me the most were those who offered advice on my personal and professional development when I needed it the most."
~Bright Sheng, untitled essay on teaching, Bright Sheng Papers, Box 1, Articles written, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.

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Last updated: 4:36 PM 7/26/2006 | nmd