Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Shyu, Jen

Shyu, Jen, composer, vocalist, dancer, violinist, and pianist; b. Peoria, IL 1978 from parents from East Timor and Taiwan.

Shyu has emerged from the Asian Improv community as a jazz composer, vocalist, dancer, violinist, and pianist performing throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.  She began ballet training with the Peoria Ballet Company (PBC) at age 6, piano at 7 from Lew Brandes followed by Roger Shields (student of Soulima Stravinsky, Igor Stravinsky's son), and violin at 8 from Ruth Livingston followed by Mihai Craioveanu. Her brother Henry (b. 1973) was also a pianist and clarinetist in his youth. Jen followed the routes of each discipline toward classical and concert career ends. Her accomplishments include dancing the role of Clara and other roles "en pointe" with the PBC; serving as concertmaster of the Central Illinois Concert Orchestra at age 10; performing on piano the Tschaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, 3rd movement with the Peoria Symphony Orchestra at age 13; placing 6th at age 9 and later in the Finals at age 15 at the Stravinsky International Pian o Competition, playing piano solo works by Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky, and Chopin; being the youngest student at Yale University1s Summer Drama Program at 16; serving as Illinois' Junior Miss her senior year of high school and winning the Miss America Talent Scholarship at America's Junior Miss with piano. 

Jen discovered singing through musical theater where the works of Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, and George Gershwin introduced her to jazz.  In high school, Jen began classical vocal training under Dr. Kerry Walters and by her junior year of high school, was a soloist with the U.S. Collegiate Choir on a three-week European tour at 17, singing in venues throughout Holland, France, Italy, England, and Germany. With initial intentions of studying drama, she attended Stanford University and received a B.A. in Music (opera) under Jennifer Lane. Piano and dance teachers there included pianist Thomas Schultz and dancers Robert Moses (jazz/modern), Tony Kramer (contact improvisation), and Susan Cashion (Latin American dance).

She studied Psychoacoustics at Oxford University, England during her junior year through the Stanford-at-Oxford program. During her eight months overseas, she performed in London and at the Bath Abbey with the professional choir, Joyful Company of Singers, and with the Arcadian Singers and Merton and Queens College Chapel Choirs of Oxford. She also studied opera and art song with Nick Clapton of the Royal Academy of Music, Philip Cave of the Tallis Scholars, Vera Rosza, and Mitsuko Shirai, Hartmut Holl, and Barbara Ann Martin at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. En route toward a classical singing career, she studied at the Lake Placid Institute with Phyllis Bryn-Julson, Susan Webb, Ian Partridge, John Wustman, and Myron MacPherson immediately after graduating.  Working with Madeline Eastman and Mark Murphy at the Stanford Jazz Workshop that same summer convinced her to explore her voice in the jazz idiom. After graduation in 2000, Jen moved to San Francisco and worked as a producer at Thick Description  an alternative theater company led by Tony Kelly. She later served as Development Director at Other Minds, Inc., a contemporary music organization which produces San Francisco's only international new music festival, where she met Randy Weston who has been an important influence on her as a jazz artist.  In April 2001, Jen traveled to Cuba through Plazacuba.com where she studied folkloric and salsa dance, singing, percussion, and piano from Andres Alen at La Escuela Nacional de Arte. Her experience there has had a profound impact on her work. But it was meeting Francis Wong and becoming involved in the Asian Improv community that she began to develop a concept integrating her Chinese/Taiwanese heritage and her love of Cuban music with her vocal, dance, violin, and piano skills with ensembles like music and dance collective Red Jade, Gathering of Ancest ors, Jimmy Biala1s Latin jazz ensemble Con Alma, and artists such as Jon Jang, Lewis Jordan, John-Carlos Perea, Jimmy Biala, Lester Cobb, Art Hirahara, Doug Yokoyama, and Tatsu Aoki, and AK Black among many others.  She received a grant through Asian Improv aRts from the California Arts Council Next Generation program. For at least all of 2003 she is doing research on Taiwanese folk and aboriginal music in Taiwan and also on the Chinese-Cuban community in Cuba.

Jen has performed at the San Jose Jazz Festival with Con Alma, with her own ensemble at Asian American Jazz Festivals in San Francisco and Chicago, the Soko Arts Festival in May 2001, and throughout the Bay Area including Chaya Brasserie and Bar every Saturday night. 

Rrecordings:
For Now (2002)
As sideperson:
Doug Yokoyama: Thanks For Stopping By (2002); Lewis Jordan: More Travels of a Zen Baptist (2002) 

Bibliography:
Asian Week, May 2002
Hokubei Mainichi, October 2002
CD Review by Dr. Herb Wong, Jazz Education Journal (International Association of Jazz Educators) November/ December 2002 issue

Websites:
www.thickdescription.org
www.otherminds.org
Contact information:
jen@jenshyu.com
www.jenshyu.com

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