The stories, sounds, and traditions of San Francisco’s Chinese community speak not only to the Chinese or Asian immigrant experience, but the American experience. Michael Morgan, and San Francisco Symphony Assistant Principal Cello Amos Yang, Associate Principal Viola Yun Jie Liu, and Assistant Principal Second Violin Jessie Fellows share their unique connections to Chinese culture and reflect on  what music can offer in times like these.   

We cannot consider San Francisco without also considering the many contributions of its resilient Chinese community. Flocking to California in the 1850s in search of a better life, Chinese immigrants endured the dangerous work of building America’s first transcontinental railroad. Their reward? Discrimination and marginalization. But out of this hardship emerged stories, sounds, and traditions that speak not only to the Chinese or Asian immigrant experience, but the American experience.

San Francisco Symphony Musicians

Guest Artist

Shenshen Zhang, Pipa

Shenshen Zhang, Pipa

A native of China, Shenshen Zhang has made her home in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2006. In addition to performing the traditional Chinese pipa repertory, she has also appeared with ensembles including Houston Grand Opera, Alonzo King Lines Ballet, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and Symphony Silicon Valley. Shenshen teaches classical Chinese music at her pipa studio in the Silicon Valley.

Heard in This Episode

Bright Sheng (b. 1955, Shanghai): Seasons (Qinghai) and The Little Cabbage (Hebei) from Seven Tunes Heard in China 
(new arrangement by Bright Sheng for pipa, violin, viola, and cello)

Currents Explore & Create

In collaboration with Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser, this interactive musical adventure and companion series features conversations and activities designed to guide curious users through the characteristics that shape musical styles explored in CURRENTS.
Featured in this episode: Strauss Shi

Strauss Shi, Violin/Erhu

Strauss Shi, Violin/Erhu

Born in China and raised in San Francisco, Strauss Shi began studying violin and erhu as a young boy. He received degrees in violin from the Juilliard School and USC Thornton School of Music and is an alumnus of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra.

As a result of all the changes in the world, we are hearing things differently.

What has changed in your sound world over the past couple of months?

We want you to get creative! Post your response to this question in a sound recording, video, poem, or other on Instagram or Twitter using #SFSCurrents.
We’ll be displaying them here.


Learn more about the cultural currents shaping our city and the world.  

Serenity an album by Shenshen Zhang

Strauss Shi performs on erhu

Never Far Away by Bright Sheng

Bright Sheng

Melody of China

Special Thanks to Our Season Sponsors


To Chevron, our inaugural Second Century Partner, for keeping the music playing since 1926.

 To Emirates, our Official Airline, for keeping the music playing around the world.

 To Franklin Templeton and Fiduciary Trust International, for 30 years of partnership.

To Bank of America, for more than 30 years of supporting young artists through SF Symphony education programs.


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