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Passion, Persistence and Patience Guide Path to Menuhin Competition

Fourteen-year-old Shannon Ma is a junior competitor in the Menuhin Competition Richmond 2021 and a pre-college student at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. (Photo: Katy McMurran)
Fourteen-year-old Shannon Ma is a junior competitor in the Menuhin Competition Richmond 2021 and a pre-college student at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. (Photo: Katy McMurran)  

Without being a dancer, I definitely wouldn’t play the violin the way I do. Dance has toughened me up a lot because being in a team, being a team member, and competing with them, just really builds your personality and character.

Shannon Ma started the violin at age three, after her mom signed her up for group classes. It was a way to help Shannon engage with children her age, and at the time neither Shannon or her parents realized how far it would go. But when they moved to Saratoga, California, Shannon found a school and community that embraced and invested in the performing arts. 

“I think that classical music is in really good shape right now because at my high school, we have a huge music building just devoted to music students,” said Ma. “And also at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, it's full of really dedicated and hardworking kids and also dedicated parents.” 

Ma is also a dancer, she makes movies and she loves to write. In 2018, she decided to pen an essay for the Growing Up Asian in America contest. She wanted to write about music, and more specifically stereotypes about Asian Americans, that she experiences herself and she sees in hurtful online comments: that they’re “robotic,” have “zero passion” and are just “trying to enter a top school with their musical abilities.”

“My hope is that one day, in the future, nobody will judge a musician based on a glimpse of their skin color,” wrote Ma. “Someday, I hope everyone will take their stereotypic labels off of Asian musicians and recognize us for our passion and abilities.”

When Ma wrote the essay, she researched the Menuhin Competition, watching performances and reading accounts of music journalists. She began to follow it on social media and talked about it with her friends. Last year, she decided to apply.

“I wasn't expecting anything,” said Ma. “I was just like, I'm gonna do it with no regrets.”

Ma will be a junior competitor in Menuhin Competition Richmond 2021.


Credits: Katy McMurran recorded our interview with Shannon in San Francisco. Today’s episode was produced by Shawn Evans and Catherine Komp. If you liked what you heard, please rate and review Making Menuhin in your favorite podcast player.