By Ninette Cheng
Northwest Asian Weekly
Dieter Cui may reside in Seattle, but he is a world traveler when it comes to performing and teaching opera music. In addition to being a top performer in Chinese and Western opera, Cui — whose Chinese first name is Zong Shun — contributes to the community through his nonprofit organization, the Seattle PhiloVoce Association. Cui has also taught hundreds of students in Seattle.
Cui is a native of China and studied music at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.
“He also studied voice in Europe under the direction of Tom Kraus,” said Martha Lee, Cui’s student and colleague. She nominated him as a Pioneer of Music. “He completed his two-year training at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.”
Cui moved to the United States in 1995 and to Seattle in 1999 to improve his voice training, and to expand his experience and skills.
In 2006, Cui and his colleagues founded the Seattle PhilVoce Association, a nonprofit organization with the mission of spreading Chinese music culture and providing a platform for professional and amateur singers. Cui currently serves as the artistic director.
“[We also] promote Chinese opera singers [when they] come over to Seattle,” Cui said.
“I met [Cui] over a year ago while attending the annual gala concert,” said Lee. “I was impressed by the quality of the program and the members’ singing.”
The organization’s name comes from the Latin word philo, meaning love, and the Italian word voce, meaning voice.
“The name reveals the common characteristic of its members — they love singing,” Lee said. Lee is also a member of the board of directors.
“Over the past year, I met other members and participated in many of its activities,” Lee said. “I realized what an impact the chorus group has made to the community and its members.”
For many members, English is their second language.
“Singing and practicing has become an important part of many people’s lives. It has enhanced their social and community life which can often be limited or restricted due to culture and language barriers,” Lee said.
The group currently consists of 60 to 80 singers. It holds several recitals each year including an annual gala, Lee said.
Cui is also a traveling opera singer and performer.
“Because of my activities in music, I am often invited to international performances,” Cui said. “This year, I was invited to Tokyo and to Beijing. Next year, I have been invited to Indonesia to have a concert.”
Cui has performed various operas worldwide including Tosca, Don Cario, Marriage of Figaro, La Traviata, and Magic Flute.
“In Beijing, they are building a new opera house,” Cui said. “I was invited to have an opera performance in there. We [will] perform the Italian opera. It’s the most expensive opera house in the world.”
Cui has performed in operas and concerts all over the world, including Europe, Asia, North America, and South East Asia. Cui was a featured performer at the National Performance Art Center in Beijing and a guest speaker at the “Master Class for Voice” event in April 2009.
“I was elected as a top 10 singer in bass and baritone in China,” Cui said.
Cui hopes to be able to reach a broader audience in the future.
“I want to spend more time teaching, prepare more performances or concerts in Asian countries, and prepare more songs to enrich my program,” he said. “[I want to] introduce more sounds, not only to the Chinese community, but to [all] Asian people.” ♦
Meet Cui at NWAWF’s Pioneers in Music Awards Gala and Banquet on Oct. 16. For more information, visit pioneers.nwasianweeklyfoundation.org.
Ninette Cheng can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.