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Violinist | Lee Shu-te

  • Date:2023-06-13
Violinist | Lee Shu-te

Chinese Name: 李淑德

Date of Birth: September 15, 1929

Place of Birth: Pingtung County (Southern Taiwan)

Did You Know?

Lee Shu-te, a passionate and energetic musician, originally started with learning to play the piano, which required her to sit still while playing. However, because she was so restless, she switched to learning the violin, which allowed her to move around while playing. During her audition at the New England Conservatory of Music, Lee told the examiner that her goal was to return to Taiwan to teach music. Little did she know that this would become her life’s mission. As Taiwan’s first violinist to earn a Master’s degree in the instrument in the United States, Lee Shu-te has dedicated her life to nurturing talent and has trained many internationally renowned violinists and professors. She is a trailblazer in string education in Taiwan and has become known as the godmother of Taiwanese violin, Taiwan's string education pioneer, and "the talent maker."

Born in 1929 in Wandan Township (萬丹鄉), Pingtung County, Lee Shu-te grew up in an environment where music and art were highly valued by her parents. They often hired renowned nanguan music groups from Lukang to perform at home, and even established a mandolin band in their hometown. As a result, Lee was exposed to music from a young age. She was an active and adventurous child who enjoyed trying new things. In addition to a love for painting, she excelled in sports and had a great sense of pitch and a powerful memory. Lee started learning piano at the age of six and began studying violin at the age of 12 after enrolling in Pingtung Girls' High School.

Lee Shu-te originally enrolled in the Fine Arts Department at Taiwan Provincial Normal University (now National Taiwan Normal University), but later transferred to the newly established Music Department. She once served in the Provincial Symphony Orchestra (now the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra) before going to the United States to study. She first attended Nyack College and then studied at the New England Conservatory of Music. While in the United States, she not only worked hard to practice the piano and study music theory and history, but also actively immersed herself in local cultural traditions and daily life, even working part time to make a living.

In 1964, Lee Shu-te returned to Taiwan as the nation’s first holder of a Master's degree in violin. After teaching at Tainan Theological College, she was invited by National Taiwan Normal University to teach in the Music Department. In her spare time, she drove a small van around Taiwan to teach and discover children with musical potential, nurturing and guiding them according to their talents. Additionally, Lee Shu-te believed that ensemble playing was an important form of training for instrument learners, and so she not only founded and led the Chinese Youth Symphony Orchestra, but also instructed many other children's orchestras and symphony orchestras. After retiring from National Taiwan Normal University in 1995, she continued to give lectures and teach music at various schools, demonstrating her admirable dedication to music education.

According to her students, Lee is a very strict teacher who values basic training. At the same time, she also arranges various sports activities for her students outside of class time. Lee Shu-te is able to let her students develop freely without deviating from the track, and believes that cultivating a well-rounded education and expanding students’ horizons is very important. By stimulating their potential and imagination based on their individual personalities and traits, she can create top-notch talent. Internationally renowned musicians such as Lin Cho-liang (林昭亮), Hu Nai-yuan (胡乃元), Nanette Chen (陳沁洪), Chien Min-yen (簡名彥), Taichi Chen (陳太一), Cheng Chiun-teng (鄭俊騰), and Hsin Ming-feng (辛明峰) have all received instruction from Lee Shu-te.

Lee Shu-te’s contributions to music education in Taiwan have earned her numerous awards. In addition to receiving Outstanding Alumni Awards from the New England Conservatory of Music, Pingtung Girls’ High School, and National Taiwan Normal University in 1981, 1992, and 2004 respectively, she was also given an award by the Taiwanese American Foundation (TAF) for her talent and achievements in 1993. In 2015, she was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to arts education by the Ministry of Education, and in 2017, she was recognized with the Order of Brilliant Star with Grand Cordon by the Presidential Office. Furthermore, in 2023, she received the nation’s highest cultural award, the National Cultural Award.