Sun took her music career across the globe, now a professor at CMU
Guest Lecturer of Violin Fangye Sun made her life's passion her work when she and five others were appointed to the Central Michigan University College of Music this semester.
"Music just seemed very natural to pick up for me," Sun said. "I fell in love with it."
Aside from teaching violin in both her home country, China, and in the United States, Sun has collaborated with a number of celebrated orchestras, including the Michigan State University Symphony, the National Repertory Orchestra and the Jiao Tong University Symphony.
Sun said live performances are some of the most rewarding parts of being a musician, but her real passion is teaching music to others.
After joining the Grand Rapids Symphony in 2011 and performing with them for two years, she decided to switch gears and began looking for academic work. After interviewing with several Michigan colleges, she was hired to the CMU College of Music.
Traverse City senior Kayla Priest, who is studying for a music education major with Sun, said Sun's enthusiasm for music is helpful and inspiring.
"Her energy level is always very positive," Priest said. "She has a very kind way of pushing her students to reach the next level at each lesson while still emphasizing what needs to be improved upon."
Sun began her musical journey at a young age. Several members of her family worked as professional musicians, including her father, a professor of viola at the Xi’an Conservatory of Music.
Sun was given a violin for her third birthday and began playing it at the age of four.
When she was 11, Sun gave her first performance at a youth violin competition, where she won the gold medal. She continued practicing through her adolescence and attended the Xi’an Conservatory in China. After receiving her Bachelor of Music degree, she taught at the conservatory for two years as an assistant professor.
In 2003, Sun met MSU violin professor Walter Verdehr during a China concert tour. After learning about the music program available at MSU, Sun decided to travel to Michigan to earn her musical arts doctorate.
When Sun arrived in the U.S., she stayed with Lansing resident Mildred Spurbeck, who has acted as host for a number of foreign students studying at MSU. In the seven years Sun lived there, the two developed a strong relationship.
Sun described Mildred as her American mother.
"She adapted quickly to being an American student," Spurbeck said. "She amazed me with her ability to study from English books in her first semester. I've never seen her face a problem without finding a solution."
Sun was interested in both studying in a new environment and in learning more about life in a different culture. She said that it took time to adjust to American culture and to overcome the language barrier by learning more English.
After she earned her doctorate from MSU, Sun's career in music almost ended in 2006 when she injured a muscle in her left hand. The injury was the result of too much practice with the violin and it made playing painful.
“After the injury, I was pretty desperate," Sun said. "I didn’t think I could do this anymore, that I would have to choose a new career.”
The physical therapy Sun underwent for two years proved effective, lessening the pain and increasing the damaged muscle's strength. Sun said that such an injury never fully heals, so the muscle now works at around 90 percent of its original capacity.
The violin enthusiast sometimes returns to China during summer to perform with concerts and teach classes. She said her busy schedule only allows her to travel home every other year in general.
Sun is currently preparing for an upcoming violin recital. She will be performing on Oct. 29 at the Staples Family Concert Hall in the Music Building.