Making Music at NYU Shanghai for Connection and Motivation

For Jaime Cantwell, the violin is a way to create community and reinvigorate her mind

A collage of two images: 1) Jaime Cantwell holding her violin in the resting position. 2) Jaime sitting outside on a wooden walkway holding her violin

As a Social Science major with a minor in Chinese and a cross-school minor in Linguistics, it might seem like free time would be hard to come by for Jaime Cantwell. But this NYU Shanghai senior from Seattle, Washington, has been a member of NYU Shanghai’s chamber ensemble since her first year. She even played in the first violin section of the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra at their New Year concert. For Jaime, making music at NYU Shanghai is a way to connect more deeply with herself and others.

“I think it’s easy to find time for things we truly enjoy. Music has always been a way for me to relax and take a break from my studies or work. Even on a particularly busy day,” she says. “And because of the ensemble, I found a community of people with all different majors, interests, and backgrounds. It’s inspiring to work with people who have studied a variety of genres, at all different levels, who all share the same passion for music.”

Through courses like The Music of Shanghai, she has also brought music into her academic pursuits. “We got to explore the music scene of Shanghai, which included trips to watch musicals,” says Jaime. “We also sat in on Shanghai Philharmonic rehearsals. And we even attended a jazz workshop in the city.”

An NYU student playing the violin.

Music is a serious pursuit for Jaime. “I started playing the violin when I was 8 years old,” she says. “I love playing any music that involves an ensemble, and chamber music is my favorite. It’s difficult because of the intricate communication and interaction it requires with other players. But to me, it is also some of the most rewarding music to play.” And since starting at NYU Shanghai, her relationship with it has shifted. “I’ve been able to enjoy music much more because of the environment,” she says. “Before college, I took private lessons, played in multiple orchestras, and participated in competitions. But since coming to NYU, violin has been more of a hobby that I can pursue in my free time and that helps me relax.”

“Learning to play the violin is a lifelong journey. After 14 years, it’s shown me that I should ‘trust the process’ with any skill I am trying to master.”

Looking ahead, she says, “I hope that music will continue to be a major part of my life even after college, whether that means playing on my own or joining community orchestras and other ensembles.” But playing music at NYU Shanghai has shown her that music will always fit into her life no matter what.