With Shen Yun Since: 2012
Steven Louie received both his bachelor’s and his master’s of music from Chicago College of Performing Arts. He freelanced throughout Chicago with groups such as the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and the Oak Park Symphony, and was principal bassoonist with Millennium Chamber Players. Since joining Shen Yun, he performed over 500 times around the globe, including at Lincoln Center, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Carnegie Hall, and Burgtheater, among others.
Chinese Name: My grandparents, on my dad’s side, gave me the name 焯榮. Pronounced Chuk Fan in Taishanese (a southern Chinese dialect).
Nickname: Steven, just Steven. Steve is my dad’s name.
Born in: I was born in Santa Monica, CA, but growing up I lived in Westlake Village, CA, and then Chicago, IL.
Languages: Just English. Although my mother is of Japanese descent and my father is of Chinese descent, the languages have not be passed down to me since they, too, were born in the United States.
Open on my playlist right now: The original soundtrack to My Neighbor Totoro.
Wanted to be a professional musician at age: 17
You know that someone is a musician when he or she: Starts harmonizing with all the ambient sounds around you.
In a few words, what do you love about music? I have always believed there was something mystical about music. Certain sounds and chords just touch a person’s heart. It’s said that even deaf people, like Beethoven, can feel the vibrations of music to a certain extent. I love the never-ending mystery of why music moves us.
Favorite tuning device: My iPhone has an app called Cleartune that I like to use because you can change the frequencies of the pitch by a tenth of a decimal.
Favorite brand of headphones: Sennheiser.
Good-luck trinket: A small Totoro plush stuffed animal that my wife gifted me.
Favorite instrument case brand: Kölbl.
Sheet music—travel with hard copies or electronic? I bring both hard copies of music and an iPad for easier storage. Since we travel for about five months at a time, it’s difficult to drag around 15-20 books of music. So an iPad is very helpful.
Must-have sheet music for tour: For me, there is no “must-have” music on tour. Just whatever I decided to grab before I left home. Not including our performance music, of course.
Regular warm-up routine: My warm-ups tend to be more about finding reeds to play on. So they are usually about getting the air moving and finding those “first prize winning” reeds I need to perform at my best.
Pre-show energy food: Bananas, at least they are my ideal energy food. Most of the time I can’t find any or I forget.
Intermission activity: Pick a good reed for the next half of the show. Necessary, but stressful.
Post-show wind-down: Just listening to some music and talking to my colleagues tends to be a good way for me to wind-down.
What do you do between shows on two-show days? Look for better reeds for the second show.
Most memorable audience reaction: A little girl in the first row in Taichung, Taiwan, was jumping for joy and waving her arms wildly during the curtain call. She had a white hoodie with tiny bear ears on the top of her hood. She was so adorable.
Nicest Shen Yun-related compliment you’ve ever received: “Your dad would be proud of you.”
During 100+ shows a season, how do you maintain freshness and high standards? Keeping high standards is an everlasting battle. My definition of high standards seems to be rising every passing day. One day I will reach a high point, but the next I realize that there’s an even higher standard.
How is Shen Yun different from other companies? In Shen Yun we practice the meditative discipline known as Falun Dafa or Falun Gong. The practice includes slow-movement exercises and a meditation exercise. This helps me maintain a healthier body and a clearer mind, and I think has been essential to Shen Yun’s success.