Q&A with Yanice Tsang Bonzi, Violinist and Director of Symbiosis Strings Production

“Berklee has connected me with many amazing musicians, and these connections carry on now.”

Her talent on the violin has given Yanice Tsang Bonzi M.M.’15 the opportunity to play alongside some of the best Chinese pop stars at renowned venues like Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. She combines her artistic career with the direction of Symbiosis Strings Production, the company she cofounded with her husband, guitarist Orlando Bonzi, that offers live performances, music arrangements, production, and educational projects worldwide.

Why did you decide to pursue a Master of Music in Contemporary Performance (Production Concentration) at Berklee’s  Valencia campus?

My background is in classical music, and at the age of 4, I started learning the violin and the piano. My interest in contemporary music began after I started working in the pop music scene and hanging out at jazz clubs. I then took jazz piano lessons, wrote songs, and explored electronic and Latin music. However, because I had never stopped working, I didn’t have the opportunity to study at a contemporary music school with complete focus. In 2014, my husband and I wanted to change our musical environment and decided to move from Hong Kong to Europe. I’ve heard of Berklee for many years, and I found this new program and campus in Spain, and I thought that it would be a perfect chance for me to expand my musicality and expose myself to a diverse music culture. I’m very glad I made this decision because it’s been a life-changing experience.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned at Berklee?

A few things come to mind. It was an unforgettable experience to play with faculty Gary Willis in the Fusion Ensemble, not only because he taught us how to improve our skills, but also because he is an inspiring figure. I would also highlight the improvisation class of Perico Sambeat. He has a high level of criticism and knowledge about music aesthetics: his choices of notes, phrase constructions, and how he accurately transcribes, analyzes, and practices. On top of that, his class set the bar for how I now define good music, which has to be beautiful and able to touch people. There is definitely an art to it, and it takes one’s whole life to refine it. All these things have set a model for me about the level of artistry I want to achieve. I should also highlight that the visit of Abraham Laboriel was phenomenal. He taught us to love and be loved through music. It was really touching.

Watch Tsang Bonzi perform 'Valenciana', which she composed for Valencia:

Would you advise prospective students to come to Berklee’s Valencia campus for their graduate programs?

Yes, definitely. The great thing about Berklee is that you meet people from all over the world, and the passion we all share for music encourages the merging of musical styles from different cultures to create something new and special. Besides, we got to use the amazing recording studios and workstations quite often because of the campus’s reduced number of students, which is a valuable experience especially for those who want to study production, something every musician should have at least some basic knowledge of and for which Berklee Valencia provides the best facilities and environment.

How has your Berklee experience influenced you as a professional?

Berklee has connected me with many amazing musicians, and these connections carry on now. I am looking forward to meeting and working with more new people as well as staying in touch with this wonderful family. I am grateful for every friend and teacher I have met and who has influenced me to become the musician I am today.

What things did you learn at Berklee that positioned you for success when you left and got your job?

I think the most significant influence is on the way I teach. I started to teach the violin when I was 18 years old, and I always had a passion for it, no matter the level or age of my students. I think a good teacher is like a doctor who is able to find out an individual’s problem and treat it straight away. For me, Enric Alberich’s theory class and Perico Sambeat’s improvisation class have set a solid foundation in terms of the logic of contemporary music theory. I am now combining traditional and modern methods, taking the best of both worlds to search for a more complete way of learning music. I hope in the near future I can even extend it into professional research through a Ph.D.

Bonzi and fellow alumni attended the campus' Fifth Anniversary reunion in 2017.

You currently direct Symbiosis Strings Production. Can you tell us more about the company and the services it offers?

I set up this company with my husband, guitarist Orlando Bonzi, for any music-related jobs that we can offer, including live performances, music arrangement, production, and education. I am the director and contact person dealing with clients and documents, and he is the music director who has experience arranging and producing for many vocal albums, as well as being band leader. With his knowledge of harmonies, complex rhythms, and audio together with my classical music skills, orchestration, and scoring, we cover quite a large area of music production and performance. We also have to hire lots of musicians to work with us. I think nowadays musicians have to develop many skills to survive. I even had to learn basic videography to help present my music.

Why did you decide to set up the company instead of working as a solo artist?

I’ve never stopped nurturing my craft as a solo artist. I am still touring with some Chinese pop stars, and I practice regularly. Although I can make a living on my own artistic projects, I don’t mind doing other jobs that I also love to do. Actually, I really enjoy the creative process that goes on when I work on music arrangements at home or in the recording studio.

In which countries and venues have you been performing? Is there any memorable performance you would like to share?

Being the solo violinist for the Chinese pop legend Jacky Cheung gave me the chance to play at world-class venues like Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. We also toured Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Taiwan, among other places. With our own projects, Bonzi and I have played in Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, New York, Norway, Spain, and China. There was a very special performance experience I fondly remember: for two months, I played every night at a dolphin show at the L'Oceanogràfic in Valencia, thanks to my classmate Jacopo Mezzanotti, who invited me to be the main violinist. It was challenging because it was always windy and my feet could physically touch the water. There were so many factors that could possibly affect my performance. Due to the humidity, I thought of using a cheap violin, but eventually I opted for my best Italian violin, which was a bit crazy, but I wanted to sound as beautiful as I could.

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