Music can express what human language cannot, which is why there’s a profoundly deep, stirring sensation intertwined in the pieces that violinist Fiona Zheng plays. She understands the relationship between the artist’s heart and the technical mastery of music, and how it can impact upon her audiences.
“When studying music, we always encounter this question: How can you move your audience?” How can you touch them even more deeply? I actually think that when you can completely let go of ‘self’ and broaden your heart, then your music broadens as well to the point that it embraces the audience’s hearts. Then you can truly move them,” says Zheng in a video published by Shen Yun Performing Arts, which Zheng is a violinist for.
“Roaming around to avoid persecution”
As Zheng plays Sarasate’s “Zigeunerweisen,” or Gypsy Airs, a melancholic, real-life sentiment imbues the piece, which extends directly from the virtuoso’s heart. Indeed, Zheng has a personal interpretation of this piece, which is unmistakably conveyed through her intensely emotive facial expressions and bow strokes that are as captivating as the musical composition itself.
When Zheng’s grandmother was still alive, she suffered from many ailments, including high blood pressure, and her hips were covered in boils. She later found Falun Dafa, a beautiful mind-body practice centered on the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Tolerance, which flourished in China during the 90s. Seeing that her grandmother’s ailments “miraculously disappeared” through practicing this amazing spiritual discipline, Zheng and her whole family took up the practice too.
Out of the blue, the Chinese Communist Party deemed Falun Dafa’s popularity a threat to its authoritarian rule in July 1999. A vicious persecution ensued, tearing apart many families—Zheng’s included.
“In 2006, policemen barged into our home, took all of our Falun Dafa books, and arrested my mother and grandmother. Both my mother and grandmother passed away from torture and persecution—their deaths only 15 days apart,” recalls Zheng, in an interview on Shen Yun’s website.
“Afterwards, my father and I were constantly on the move—like the gypsies that inspired Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen—always roaming around to avoid persecution.”
Zheng was completely aghast as to why the Chinese regime sought to eliminate Falun Dafa from China.
“Is there anything wrong with believing in “truth, compassion, and tolerance? Zheng questioned. “Why are they persecuting innocent people?”
Though her nightmare seemed to be over when she moved to America, the reality that urged her to flee her homeland in the first place is nonetheless a painful memory. Perhaps this is why Gypsy Airs is particularly evocative when played by Zheng’s bow.
A journey of self-mastery
For the first six months of being overseas, a tormented Zheng wouldn’t dare meditate in a park. She’d opt to practice in her bedroom with the blinds closed. Every time she saw a police car her “heart would jump.”
In time, she learned to calm down and realized that she’s safe in America, a nation not ruled by a communist regime.
Since joining Shen Yun in 2012, the adept violinist has shared her talent with audiences at some of the world’s most prestigious concert halls, including New York City’s Carnegie Hall.
Introduced to music at 3 years old, and having first picked up a violin at 5, Zheng admits that it’s been a constant journey of mastery, with improvement of her heart being the cornerstone of everything.
“I think music is very intricate. When something changes in the deepest recesses of your heart, the energy you emit will also be different.”
And audience members can feel it.
“Oh my goodness! I’ve been all over … I’ve been to the opera, to everything, and she just took my breath away. I think she’s amazing and accomplished,” said New Yorker Linda Midas, who attended Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra’s matinee performance on Oct. 10, 2015. “The violinist just took my heart. That’s how beautiful she played.”
Zheng admits she does get “very nervous” before a solo performance, but upon playing that first note, all worries disappear as she concentrates on the music.
Moreover, she also has the habit of meditating before a performance, which helps immensely.
“It makes my music more powerful, and I can feel the energy flowing from every note.”
Watch Fiona Zheng play Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen:
For Fiona Zheng’s story, see below:
New York-based Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra comprises musicians from the five Shen Yun Performing Arts touring companies. Click here for more information on Shen Yun Performing Arts, or here for Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra.
Photo Credit: YouTube Screenshot | Shen Yun Official Account.