Zo Shay | June 2016

Hometown: Alameda, California

Major: Ethnomusicology

Minor: Visual and Performing Arts Education


Q: A little background about you: Name, Hometown, degree major, year of graduation (or year of study if you are not a graduate yet) and the type of arts that you focus on.

A: My name is Zo Anthony Shay and I majored in Ethnomusicology at UCLA with a minor in VAPAE, graduating in 2015. I am from Alameda, CA and have a great love for, and take pride in being from the Bay Area. I am a musician and primarily play Middle Eastern and Chinese music. In teaching I like to focus on world music, song writing, and personal expression.

Q: How did you discover your interest in the arts and how did you know that it was something that you wanted to pursue professionally, as an artist or as an artist teacher?

A: I discovered music when, in third grade I watched my little brother play the violin and decided that I was going to play it as well. In high school I rediscovered my interest in music, finding that it went deeper than just liking to play the violin. My time learning from Ralph Miles Jones III and many others at California State Summer School for the Arts opened my eyes to the endless possibilities of music. There I was introduced to ethnomusicology, Sufi ideologies, and the political power of music. Coming to understand the social, spiritual, and political power of music led me to know that it was going to be my life path and that I would pursue it professionally.

Q: Describe what the young artists in your VAPAE studio sessions are working on and the process they’re using.

A: The young artist in my classes have worked on self-designed projects that use the skills they have learned in class to produce an art or music piece that demonstrates their abilities and understandings of class materials. A couple of our students chose to use art techniques used in the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang to create their own visual art pieces representing their life in Los Angeles. They use storytelling to create a visual narrative of their own life. All students were also working on their playing and performing on the erhu, a Chinese two string bowed instrument. They built their understanding of music that uses the erhu as well as how to read Chinese jianpu notation.

Q: Why is an enrichment opportunity like this important for those participating? What do they gain?

A: It is important for those participating because they are able to exercise and explore parts of themselves that they are normally not able to during the school day. Young people need opportunities to discover and unleash their creativity and expression. Art and music are some of the purest forms of self-discovery and expression. Not all students leave arts enrichment programs wanting to become an artist, but they do gain skills like communication, expression, and teamwork. Music helps students strengthen their abilities to communicate and present their ideas, which can do so much for them in the long run. They also gain a sense of community and a safe space to express and explore.

Q: Did you have an opportunity like this when you were a younger artist? If yes, how did it help shape your love of art? If no, in what ways could a program like this have helped you?

A: In high school I was given the opportunity to attend CSSSA as well as the World Music Summer Camp at UCLA which both lead me to attend UCLA and foster my passion for Chinese music and ethnomusicology. These helped me shape my love for music in the way I understood it. I was able to explore my interests and turn them into my passions.

Q: What has this experience as a teaching artist or arts facilitator taught you about yourself?

A: This experience has taught me just how much I love teaching music, and how capable I am to work with young artists. In college there was a feeling that since I was student, the activities I did (like teach music) were not as “real” or important as if I was out of school. Having graduated and created my own curriculum teaching about music I love has given me the confidence to know that I really can teach. It has also taught me that my love for music has to be shared, and that I will never stop sharing and teaching about music no matter what form that may take.

Q: What do you personal gain as a teaching artist, arts facilitator?

A: One thing I noticed is how happy I was after leaving each class with my students. It was a pure happiness that not all jobs give you. I gain the knowledge that another person has the beauty of music in their life. I also have the privilege of learning from inquisitive bright minds. I truly feel that teaching is a learning process and I am able to learn from my students every day. I see how they understand and love music and art, which expands and challenges my understanding. This trade/interaction is priceless.

Q: What are the benefits to you as a student/graduate in the UCLA VAPAE program? Was this program a good choice for you? If so, why?

A: One benefit of being a VAPAE graduate is that I was able to teach my course, which is an example of all that it has given me. I have more opportunities than if I was not in the minor. I have the opportunity to teach because I gained skills through the minor. I never imagined that I would be teaching about Chinese music right out of college, but the VAPAE program gave me the skills to create a curriculum, that I was able to apply to what I love. It was a good choice because I left college being able to play and perform music, write academic articles, but also teach and share music with people of all ages. The academic part of music is something I love, but feel like the the skills I learned in the VAPAE program allow me to share music with more people on a more personal level and sustainable way.

I also wanted to note that if it were not for the teaching sequence with Carolina San Juan, I would not know the extent and power in teaching with tenderness and understanding.

Q: Are there any anecdotes from your VAPAE Studio Sessions (or Arts Education Teaching Sequence) that stand out to you? Perhaps you had a break‐through with a student or saw some particularly noticeable growth in that student through this program, collaboration etc. Maybe something surprised you or made you think about art or teaching in a new way.

A: I was very touched the day one of my students exhibited fluency in reading cypher notation and really showed her excitement for the erhu. She had been late to class many times and did not come a couple other times. When I saw how excited she was about the erhu, it made me very excited and I could not wait to read more music with her. To give someone the knowledge of reading music is to open a door to a whole other world they can then explore themselves. They no longer need a teacher to scaffold each step of the learning process and what they can learn is limitless.

Q: What are your short-term and long‐term career goals?

A: My short term career goals are to teach music lessons and workshops where I can teach as many young people as I can. I am also looking into working in arts educational event production. Right now I am trying to say yes to every opportunity that arises so I can gain new experiences I might not have even thought I like.

My long term career goals are to one-day work in arts administration in a position where I can provide fun and meaningful arts education experiences for large audiences. I would like to provide a platform for young teaching artists and musicians to reach the public in an accessible, and socially conscious, way. In the future I hope to have had many different job experiences and be able to bring music to people in different capacities. I am interested in radio, museum education, music research, and working for non-profits that bring art to communities.