Shirley Wong is the founder of the Harmony Guzheng Ensemble. From an early age, she has passionately pursued a variety of instruments, such as the violin, piano, and the Pipa. In fact, she is able to play and teach the majority of instruments practiced today. However, she personally specialized in the Guzheng, also known as the Chinese Zither. It is an ancient instrument and through it, Wong becomes not only a musician but a storyteller. She studied under GuZheng master, Xu Nengqiang, who eventually recruited her as a teacher for the Hong Kong GuZheng Performers Association in 2005. (Mount Royal University, pp. 8)
Since then, Wong has grown her community of musicians. From 2008, the Ensemble has participated in over 200 events and concerts in Southern Alberta communities. From the Stampede Talent Search, Illuminasia of Calgary Zoo, Street Festivals, New Year Celebration galas, and formal Guzheng concerts. Her concerts make an effort to bridge Chinese music with adaptations of western Canadian folk songs. It is a mantra very reflective of the hybridity of Asian-Canadian existence.
For Wong, music is interwoven through not only her career but her daily life. In fact, upon moving to Calgary one of the first things she did was to “…independently start performing and teaching [GuZheng].” (Mount Royal University, pp. 8) She brings this passion towards her community outreach as well, such as, providing entertainment to senior homes or even outdoor performances with her students.
The Ensemble not only delights in the effort to showcase Chinese music culture but creates a platform to foster understanding between many cultures and generations. It is a home for many of the Guzheng students and their families. Members range in age from 5 to 84, and through monthly practices, annual camping activities and Christmas parties organized by Shirley, the ensemble has grown into a tight knit family. The GuZheng has a rich history in Chinese culture and it is this cultural past that lends the instrument its ability to recall the “…the beautiful sceneries and stories of Ancient China…” (Harmony GuZheng Ensemble, pp. 2) The sounds of its strings are interwoven with a nostalgic remembrance of Chinese operatic shows or historical plays performed in the past of a great many childhoods.
In just eight years, the Harmony Guzheng Ensemble has grown into an organization that is capable leaving an impact on Southern Alberta and it will only continue to grow in the years to come. All of this started from Wong’s desire to share her love of Guzheng and music. “In her time outside of teaching and sharing Guzheng, you will find Shirley in her garden tending various vegetables and flowers. She is also a loving mother to her children and loves to spend quality time with her family.” (Mount Royal University, pp. 8)
Harmony GuSheng Ensemble. “Homesite.” Harmony GuZheng Ensemble. 2008. http://harmony.guzhengcalgary.com/
Mount Royal University. “Programs, Classes & Private Lessons.” Mount Royal University. September, 2017. http://mtroyal.ca/ProgramsCourses/FacultiesSchoolsCentres/TheConservatory/Programs/cons-chinese-music-studies.htm