Ruth Shyu: The Composer

Shyu describes her life as a pianist, teacher, and composer.

Apr 20, 2010
Ruth Shyu ‘88, SM ‘88 is a pianist, composer, and music teacher living in Woburn, Massachusetts.
Shyu returned to piano after she had earned two degrees from MIT, an MBA from Columbia University, and spent ten years in IT and management consulting. She says she loved playing as a child and wanted to get back into it.
The Institute sharpened Shyu’s problem-solving skills and taught her to keep an open mind. Today, those skills help her face all sorts of creative challenges in music—the decision to return to it, she says, required particular openness.
Composing is Shyu’s passion, and she has more than three dozen pieces to her name. This notebook contains a draft of 20 minutes of music she composed and produced for a film about Boston’s Park Street Church, where she is a member.
Shyu (pictured at age 10, far left) is one of three siblings who all attended MIT. Her brother, Ming-Jen Shyu ‘86, SM ‘86, currently lives in Los Angeles with her mother, and her sister, Catherine Shyu ‘84, SM ‘86, lives in Hong Kong. Shyu’s father passed away two years ago.
When Shyu was 16, she wrote her first original composition scored for piano. Inspired by composer John Williams’s sweeping style, it was performed at her high school’s National Honor Society induction ceremony.
In 2002, after earning a degree from Berklee College of Music, she accepted a TV/film scoring internship with Alf Clausen, the show’s composer.
Shyu does her film scoring with a software called Finale and a MIDI input device, in this case a Roland RD-300GX keyboard. The image on Shyu’s computer screen is an outtake from the Park Street Church video.
The hand-like symbols pictured here are Shyu’s conducting cues. She used them during a film score recording session to help the players prepare for an entrance one or two bars ahead.
Shyu is studying Mozart’s music this year. “One of the most amazing things about Mozart is his impeccable sense of taste and proportion,” she says. “Nothing is ever too long or too short, too high or too low. Everything sounds natural and inevitable.”
For Shyu, the items on this shelf represent milestones that chronicle and illuminates her musical development. “Outwardly,” she says, “it’s also a nice showcase of ‘trophies’ to encourage and inspire my students.”
Shyu’s piano students adore her. This card was made by a 14-year-old student who she has taught for three years.
Since 2005, Shyu has taught piano at the Winchester Community Music School. Here, she currently has eight students, ranging from age seven to 15.
Shyu’s youngest student, Tabitha, just turned seven in January. She has been taking lessons for one year.
Tabitha rehearses the Apple Tree Waltz in anticipation of an upcoming recital. The recital, held on January 29, was a tremendous success.
“One of the greatest joys in teaching is knowing that you can make somebody else’s life easier by showing them the way,” Shyu says, “because you have walked it yourself.”