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2023 Synapse Workshop

Featuring Artists from the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York

Yueqin Chen playing ruan

Connecting aspiring composers to acclaimed musicians around the world and exploring the joy of music making in a safe space.

The 2023 Synapse workshop application is now closed.

We will announce the results shortly.  For future opportunities, please join our email list.

Featured Artists

Yueqin Chen

Yueqin ‘Eugenie’ Chen 陈玥駸 is a classically trained ruan and liuqin artist based in New York. Born and raised in Shanghai, she started playing ruan at the age of five and liuqin at age nine. Chen was admitted into the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in 2003 and studied ruan and liuqin performance with Professor Wu Qiang. In 2007, her ensemble Jin Qi (金豈组合) took first place in the National Classical Chinese Music Competition. She continued to perform and record after moving to New York and has since appeared in Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center of Performing Arts, and the 2015 Met Gala with Rihanna. Chen has been a member and featured soloist of the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York since 2013 and served as the organization’s Artistic Director from 2018 to 2021.

Sulwyn Lok

Sulwyn Lok (non-binary he/him) is an NYC-based Singaporean composer who advocates the human connection in music and going beyond cultural boundaries. He weaves folk and contemporary music elements from his extensive work across Southeast Asia and NYC. Winner of Universal Music’s UCompose competition and Best Original Music at the National Youth Film Awards (Singapore), Sulwyn’s works have premiered at the Cannes and Busan film festivals and toured festivals globally. His commissions include Samsung, the arts councils of New York and Singapore, the Singapore Chinese Orchestra, and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. Sulwyn graduated from NYU’s Screen Scoring masters program, and is a recipient of the New York State Council on the Arts grant award (2023) for a multi-movement site-specific work exploring Asian identity.

Associate editor of “Anthology of Singaporean Ruan Compositions”, Sulwyn is also resident composer of the Singapore Ruan Ensemble; executive member of the Singapore Chinese Music Federation Youth Chapter; co-founder and conductor of the Victoria Chinese Orchestra; ruan musician with the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York; and a member of the Society of Composers and Lyricists (USA).

Find out more about Sulwyn here: https://linktr.ee/runningruan

Opening Concert

September 9, 2023, at 2 pm Pacific/5 pm Eastern on YouTube Live

Come hear the unique sound of 阮(ruan) and enjoy music written for this special traditional Chinese instrument! This 60-minute live virtual concert is free and open to anyone who is interested. Our free music showcase is offered synchronously via YouTube livestream, and features acclaimed ruan soloist Yueqin Chen from the Chinese Music Ensemble of New York. 

Bring your questions! Yueqin will play a few of their popular repertories and talk about the background of those pieces, along with live Q&A breaks throughout the entire showcase.

Workshop Faculty

Haibei Wang

Haibei Wang is a Chinese composer who has written music for film, music theater, video game and the concert stage. Her compositions incorporate elements of classical orchestral music, electronic music, jazz music, and Eastern folk influences. Her film scores have been presented at the WorldFest Houston International Film Festival, TIFF, AFMA, NYFA, and more. In late 2020, she worked with Academy Nominated director Chen Kaige to score his short film Baobeier, which was screened in the Chinese TV show Everybody Stand By S2. In 2021, she worked for Grammy nominated composer Frank Wildhorn on his Musical No Longer Human as a music copyist. In the same year, Oblivio, a Sci-fi short she scored, was released by Dust company. In 2022, she won the New Work Grants from Queens Council on the Arts, from which she collaborated with Yueqin Chen on the ruan and piano duo “Farewell Kiss for the Night”.  

Now based in New York City, Haibei completed a Master’s degree in composition with a concentration in Screen Scoring from New York University in 2019. She also holds degrees in Concert Composition (B.M.), Organ Performance (B.M.) and Concert Composition (M.M.) from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. 

To learn more about Haibei’s works, visit: https://www.haibeiwang.net

Rachel Walker

Rachel C. Walker writes poetic, timbre-sensitive works drawing from her ongoing immersion in and research on Chinese folk music, musical time, and language. She engages in long-term collaborations with living writers, exploring the philosophical connections between transcription and translation within abstract musical syntaxes.

Her music has been heard across the US, China, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Poland, Portugal, Canada, Colombia, and Australia, including performances during Festival Mujeres en la Música Nueva, PASIC, Hangzhou Contemporary Music Festival, Kuandu Arts Festival, Svensk Musikvår, Kalv Festivalen, Sound of Stockholm, Warsaw Autumn, Bludenzer Tage zeitgemäßer Musik, Festival de Royaumont, Beethovenfest Bonn, Unerhörte Musik, Sommer in Stuttgart and Tage Neuer Musik Regensburg. Recent commissions include pieces for Radio France, Trio Abstrakt, airborne extended, Ensemble Ascolta and others.
Rachel studied at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (B.M.), China Conservatory of Music (Visiting Scholar), Tsinghua University (M.S., Schwarzman Scholar), and the Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien Hannover (M.M.). She has held residencies at the Banff Centre, Britten-Pears Arts and the Elektronmusik Studion Stockholm, and was a fellow (aural/physical) to the Akademie Schloss Solitude in 2022. She is the Artistic Director of the new music and media organization neuMERZ.


Nate May

Synthase founder Nate May (b. 1987) is a versatile American composer, keyboardist, and educator whose music has been heard across four continents: in jazz clubs and DIY spaces, on national television, in museums and modern dance venues, and on mainstage classical events at New York’s Sheen Center and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. His chamber, choral, and orchestral music, characterized by textural intricacy, rhythmic drive, and repurposed sounds, has been performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble, Ensemble Dal Niente, Wild UP, the Yale Philharmonia, Patchwork Duo, and Quartetto Indaco. Also an award-winning educator, he has served as a teaching artist with the American Composers Orchestra and taught courses at Yale University, Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, Montclair State University, the Walden School, and the Thurnauer school. He holds a doctorate in composition from Yale, supported in part by a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He also earned degrees from Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music (M.M., Composition) and the University of Michigan (B.F.A., Jazz and Contemplative Studies). His teachers have included Aaron Jay Kernis, David Lang, Christopher Theofanidis, Geri Allen, Stephen Rush, and Michael Fiday.

Huijuan Ling

Huijuan (Susie) Ling is a composer and keyboardist currently based in Durham, NC. She likes to draw her inspiration outside the boundaries of the wobbly concept of Western art music and enjoys the process of discovering and negotiating a sound world that feels authentic both to her and her collaborators. Her music has been performed by ensembles and musicians such as the Utari Duo, Cracow Golden Quintet, Ciompi Quartet, Yarn/Wire, Imani Winds, JACK Quartet, Line Upon Line Percussion, and others. In 2022, her woodwind quintet “Toward a Rediscovery” won the first prize in the fifth International “New Vision” Composition Competition from the New York Dance & Arts Innovations; in 2021, she was awarded the William Klenz Prize in Composition from Duke University; in 2020, she was among the recipients of the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; and in 2019, her harpsichord solo “Those Cold Winter Rains” won the third prize in the SIMM 2019 International Harpsichord Composition Competition. Huijuan joined Synthase in 2022, and has been an avid educator who advocates for a supportive and friendly creative space. 

To learn more about Huijuan’s music, visit: www.linghuijuan.com

Workshop Overview

A rare opportunity for aspiring composers to engage with professionals in traditional Chinese music, this year’s Synapse workshop will guide you through the process of creating and bringing to life a brand new work for the ruan, a plucked instrument that is a common component of a Chinese ensemble. Over the course of two months, you’ll join virtually with notable mentors and like-minded composers, and develop a brand new piece that will be professionally recorded.

  • Participants will create a new work guided by online mentoring sessions with our faculty and featured artists. 
  • Participants are guaranteed three 60-minutes group lessons and two 55-minutes private lessons. 
  • Participants will create a 3-5 minute work for ruan.
  • All participants’ works will be premiered at our virtual showcases by the end of the fall 2023 term.
  • Participants will receive professional audio recording of their work.


  • Application opens on August 7, 2023.
  • Free Online Opening Concert on Saturday, September 9, 2023, at 2 pm Pacific/5 pm Eastern.
  • Application closes on September 15. 
  • Application results delivered by September 25. Applicants must accept or decline by October 2
  • Group Lesson 1 (Yueqin Chen) Saturday, October 7.
  • Group Lesson 2 (Sulwyn Lok) Saturday, October 14.
  • October 15 – November 15: two private composition lessons with Synapse faculty
  • Completed Preliminary Draft due to the artist (Yueqin or Sulwyn) by December 1.
  • Final group lesson with designated artist on December 9, 2023.
  • Final score due on December 10, 2023.
  • Virtual Premiere at Synthase Fall Showcase on December 16, 2023, at 2 pm Pacific/5 pm Eastern.

Financial Information

  • Application fee: $15 per application.
    • If you are experiencing financial difficulties and cannot afford the application fee, please contact us at synapse@synthase.cc
  • Tuition: $500 (due two weeks after the acceptance email).
    • We do not offer refunds for our workshop. All fees are non-refundable. 
  • Current Synthase students: Current Synthase students are encouraged to apply. If admitted, Synthase students will have the option to attend the workshop in a condensed format (including all group lessons and the virtual premiere of their work, but excluding private lessons) with a tuition fee of $320 dollars.
    • Note: Synthase students are expected to work on their Synapse piece with their instructor during their lessons, and they will schedule at least one office hour meeting with Synthase faculty to discuss their piece.
  • Admitted Synthase alumni: We’d love to work with you again! Synthase alumni will receive a $50 discount on their tuition.
  • Scholarship: Synthase is committed to educating and cultivating our rising students, as well as building connections between students and professional musicians. We commit to offer portions of application fees received as scholarships to help alleviate the financial burdens of our admitted students.

Community Standards

Synthase is devoted to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for students, musicians, collaborators, and audiences, and we are committed to providing opportunities for musicians from non-academic backgrounds and underrepresented communities. We are committed to cultivating a community of trust, respect, and mutual support, and we welcome engagement with our programs by individuals of all races, ethnicities, genders, abilities, and sexual orientations. We will not tolerate hate speech, bullying, or sexual harassment. All communication in online platforms must be kind, courteous, and appropriate for an educational setting. No objectionable, offensive, insensitive, or graphic content will be allowed and we have a right to remove any posts from our community channels.

Workshop Application Instructions

  • Eligibility: Applicants 13 and up.
  • The selected applicants must each compose a 3-5 minute new work for solo ruan.
  • Submit 1-2 PDFs and audio files (recording preferred, MIDI acceptable) of your best work in any instrumentation and style. Please note that the submission is anonymous. The submitted PDF and audio files must be free of names and identifying marks.
  • Within 300 words, briefly introduce yourself, tell us about your musical interests, and what you’d like to achieve through the Synapse Workshop. Alternatively, you can submit an audio statement on the same topics listed above. The audio should be less than 3 minutes in length. Please note that the applicant’s name, as well as pieces submitted should not be mentioned in the statement.
  • Submission deadline: September 15, 2023, at 11:59 pm Pacific.
  • 5-8 applicants will be notified of acceptance by email by September 25, 2023.

Contact synapse@synthase.cc with any questions.

The 2023 Synapse workshop application is now closed.

We will announce the results shortly.  For future opportunities, please join our email list.