A Pittsburgh violinist gets the call from Cleveland

A Pittsburgh violinist gets the call from Cleveland


norman lebrecht

April 11, 2018

Violinist Zhan Shu has won a vacancy in the Cleveland Orchestra.

Trained in Beijing and at Mannes, he joined the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 2014 after several years in the Milwaukee Symphony. Before that, he was concertmaster of the Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra and Symphony of Southeast Texas.




  • Anon says:

    A lot of the major orchestras are becoming predominantly asian especially in the violin section. Shouldn’t we look into putting a cap on all non-US citizens being able to audition here? The fact of the matter is, is that we can’t go and audition in other countries because they only allow citizens to apply. Is this really fair?

    • ANON2 says:

      Are you upset because they’re Asian or because they’re non-US citizens? You sound racist. What about all the orchestral players from European countries? Or Canada?

      Why not build an impermeable wall around the US? Why should non-US citizens be allowed into the country, ever?

      • Anonlondon says:

        It’s very difficult for a European to get a job in an American orchestra; believe me, the USA protect their jobs for their citizens, which is surely a good thing! But don’t get me on visas for the ability to work in America…

    • Cleve Orch fan says:

      Totally provincial statement. Honestly, I don’t care whether a player is light skinned or dark, what religion he/she follows, or what country the player was born in. Orchestras should hire the best players who can follow the conductor’s instructions, period.

      As for the violin section, Cleveland would be well advised to drop their concertmaster, William Preucil, whose playing has sadly declined in recent years and who has been the subject of numerous scandals.

    • Daniel says:

      Hey, I’m going to avoid the usual damning rhetoric that I’m accustomed to launching at racists like you. Instead, I’ll ask one question:
      Based on this article, is this man a citizen of the United States?
      If you can answer that question, then I’d also like to know how you came to your conclusion.

    • Anson says:

      Ethnicity isn’t citizenship. Do you know for a fact that the “predominantly Asian” players who you are seeing in orchestras aren’t citizens, are you assuming it, or something else?

    • MacroV says:

      For a non-Amcit/nonresident to play in an American orchestra, I assume s/he’d need either a H1B work visa, or an E-3 or more likely an E-1 immigrant visa, the latter for an alien of extraordinary merit. In the former case, you have to show that no US citizen was available, in the latter that you are truly a standout in your field. In either case it shouldn’t be hard; you auditioned against 100-odd highly-skilled candidates to and won a job in what is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest orchestras. Seems like you’ve met the test.

      I don’t know the practices of all orchestras, but there are a lot of Americans in European orchestras, including a few in the Berlin Philharmonic. So clearly it can be done. Lots of Americans in the major Canadian orchestras, too, though they often try to hire Canadian first.

      Also interesting, though, that while we continue to say the Big 5 is a relic, and there are a lot of great orchestras in the US (with which I completely agree), apparently going from Pittsburgh to a comparable job in Cleveland is still seen as a step up.

    • Brucknerliebhaber says:

      I see your point. I guess since we are talking about Western Classical Music, it wouldn’t really be appropriate to have all these non-Western ethnic faces present in the orchestra to properly fulfill the expectation right? OK OK sad that by law if the players are actually legally Americans we have to accept them even if they are not “White”…May be the current “Non”-administration in Washington will do something about that! Wouldn’t it be nice to learn from and follow the tradition of the really great orchestras like the Berlin Philharmonic where they only allow ethnic Germans to fill the positions? Oh Oh but WAIT! THEY DON’T DO THAT, DO THEY? Of the three 1st Concertmasters of the Berlin Phil, one is ethnic Poles, one ethnic Japanese and one American! So Cleveland is in mighty good company! In Boston, they just elected an ethnic Frenchman to be the next Principal Cellist.

      Cleveland is one of the great orchestras in the world and I am sure they received lots of applications to fill the vacancy. Mr Zhan Shu won it fair and square through the rigorous audition process. May be he is already an American through naturalization, may be not but Cleveland deserves to be able to hire the best player they deem worthy to join the rank.

      I usually bite my tongue and refrain from commenting on lots of outrageous stuff I read on this blog but your plainly racist posting demands a response.

    • Will Shackelton says:

      Are you kidding? Your ignorance is ridiculous. Why shouldn’t a non American get a job in an American orchestra? Americans get jobs in orchestras across the world, your statement is not based in fact.
      You are absolutely fucking pathetic. If you are upset about Shu getting a job in Cleveland then pick up a violin and practice, and try to be something yourself.

    • Alison Fujito says:

      I’m surprised that the comment by “Anon” has been allowed to stay up, and absolutely shocked to see such ignorance and blatant racism here on Slipped Disc.

      Zhan Shu has obviously won SEVERAL major orchestra auditions; these auditions are rigorous, and usually involve one or more rounds behind a screen where contestants must receive enough votes to pass to the next round, and a final round where committee and the music director choose the best player for the job.

      He is a highly-valued colleague here in Pittsburgh. Of course, we wish him the best, but we are very sad to see him leave, and we will miss his extraordinary musicianship and beautiful sound.

  • Sam Spell says:

    That’s it? This is a non-story.

  • Player1 says:

    Not to worry, someone immigrates to the USA, lives here for a while and then they become American also, so in the end, you always hire an American. However, many other places (like Canada, Europe…) should be more inclusive in their audition process.

  • Emma McGrath says:

    For all you know, he could already be a US citizen.
    Americans can certainly get jobs in other countries. In Canada I believe it is the requirement to have a National Audition first, and then an International one if there was no hire. In Australia, there are two National Auditions, and then an International one. So yes, not many opportunities but it does happen.
    Getting a job anywhere, no matter what country, is tough, so congrats to this guy! I’m sure that regardless of his ethnicity and/or citizenship, he worked ridiculously hard and played great on the day!

  • Nelson Curtis says:

    Makes me sick to read the same old bullcrap from idiots like “anon” here, EVERY time someone of Asian provenance wins a job or a competition or even is a finalist in a competition. Zhan Shu has been in this country since he was 16. He has had major posts in various orchestras in the US for over 10 years. And you ASSUME he’s not a citizen? And so what if he’s not? Are you aware that the majority of orchestral auditions are done behind a screen? So….for YOUR benefit, do we need to change that just for the sake of your presumed “great white hope”? What the heck do YOU think Zhan Shu needs to prove to YOU, Mr. Anon racist? What he heck have YOU ever done to warrant sitting on your high horse and making such pronouncements, Mr. Anon? What do you want your violin section to look like? Should we be happy that not so many Hispanics or African Americans clog up the system too? Seriously, what in the bloody heck do you THINK you see going on? So what if other countries allow only citizens…until Trump manages to subvert even more than he has, this is the United States of America, and if you’re a xenophobe HERE, you SHOULD get called out for it. To be charitable, what you exhibit is a “knee-jerk” reaction, or judging a book by its cover. And it makes you a illiterate, frothing at the mouth racist. Have a good day.

  • Aurélien Pétillot says:

    Guys, Zhan got the call because he is extremely qualified and incredibly talented. He is also an American citizen, Anon. Your comment reeks of Racism.

  • Larry W says:

    In the interest of accuracy, Zhan Shu’s information here should include:
    A native of China, Shu received his early training from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. At 16, he was awarded a full scholarship to study at the Mannes College of Music with Lucie Robert. Upon graduation, Shu was awarded the George and Elizabeth Gregory Award for Excellence in Performance, and a full scholarship to study at the University of Houston with Emanuel Borok. Shu later became recipient of the Josef Gingold and Jascha Heifetz Scholarships from Indiana University, where he was an Artist Diploma Student under the guidance of Mauricio Fuks and Alexander Kerr.

    While at the University of Houston, Zhan studied chamber music with me, and we played in a string quartet together. His playing was always of the highest level, with beautiful sound and intonation. He has accomplished much through hard work and natural talent, and is to be congratulated for his many successes.

  • Alyssa says:

    Shu’s as American as f’ing apple pie. I dated him in college at Indiana a billion years ago. You want to see fewer Asians in orchestras? Start playing better than them. End of story.

  • Maria Barber says:

    @Aurélien Pétillot! I read your comment and loved it. You’re absolutely right. #Zhan got the call because he is extremely qualified and incredibly talented.
    Check my web site through https://aaafencemaster.com/cleveland-texas-contractor/

  • Henrietta currie says:

    Ingrid haebler