• How a world-class violinist found her way to teaching at Baylor

    Patricia Shih

    At the age of 14, a prodigious violinist was given the chance to study with a preeminent violin instructor. He described her as “one of the greatest talents that I have ever taught,” and she went on to start a renowned string quartet and perform at many of the world’s top venues. During her time under his mentorship, she noticed a plaque on the instructor’s wall alongside mementoes from the world’s greatest performers.

    It was from Baylor University — and it stuck with her.

    Years later, Patricia Shih now serves as an associate professor of violin in Baylor’s School of Music, while continuing to perform internationally as a violinist with the highly-regarded Borealis String Quartet. Her career has taken her to such stages as Carnegie Hall in New York and London’s Wigmore Hall as she performed with such leading orchestras as the Royal Philharmonic in England and the Mexico National Symphony. Shih has more than fulfilled the prodigious talent she showed as a child, when she gave her first public performance at the age of four.

    While performing continues to be an important part of her career, she in recent years began to feel drawn to teaching.

    “From my experiences in the different genres as a musician… I discovered that teaching is an integral part of who I am and what I find to be extremely rewarding,” Shih said on a recent episode of the “Baylor Connections” podcast. “I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to pass on knowledge and discipline I’ve acquired from my legendary teachers and to be able to continue the lineage and mentor young talents. It’s the inspiration I receive, witnessing the students’ capability to expand and to watch a student grow, not just as a musical artist, but as a human being, as they’re so intertwined.”

    Shih would find open doors around the world to bring her on faculty at any number of top institutions, but her small yet meaningful connection with Baylor helped draw her to Waco.

    The legendary instructor who tutored Shih as a teenager was Josef Gingold, a longtime Indiana University professor considered one of the world’s most influential violinists and instructors. It was on Gingold’s wall that Shih noticed a plaque from Baylor. Gingold, it turned out, had received Baylor’s Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching in 1993. Just as his description of Shih as “one of the greatest talents I ever taught” carried great meaning in her career, his praise for Baylor remained with her.

    “He was intrinsically proud of the Cherry Award and often spoke of the elite institution Baylor is,” Shih remembers. “He also performed here with the Waco Symphony near the end of his life. … So when this opportunity came up, it seemed the perfect time and perfect fit for me. And I’m just tremendously honored to be here at Baylor.”

    Sic ’em, Patricia Shih!