Creating a Culture of Listening: Exploring Conscious Listening Workshops with Steinway Artist Hsing-ay Hsu

Part 1: The Vision

Imagine a world where we are multidimensionally connected to ourselves and others, open-minded about what we don’t understand, and intentional about how we fit into the big picture. We can build that culture of listening by becoming aware of how we listen to others and consistently practicing our quality of listening, along with helping others practice as well. The art of listening is at risk of fading away in our society. Our addiction to visual stimulation and sensory overload has left little room for quality listening. In education, the focus on measuring the quantity of memorized knowledge is squeezing out any time to reflect and integrate large concept principles. As a result, we struggle as a nation to understand, engage in, and digest meaningful conversations about complex issues. Effective communication is fundamental to maintaining a society, and listening skills are its basic building blocks.

Fortunately, music provides us with a safe and abstract playground to explore ideas and practice creative thinking and collaboration. A culture that values and nurtures listening skills creates an environment of empathy, trust, and respect, where diverse opinions and ideas can be shared and appreciated. By practicing the art of listening, we not only enhance our own wellness and our innate need to communicate, but make possible the emergence of a more civilized society.

Part 2: The Journey

Conscious ListeningTM  is the term I use to describe my multidimensional approach to music. Over the past 14 years, I have created listening workshops alongside my performing and piano teaching activities to help music lovers engage more deeply with life through music. These workshops provide guided listening practice to savor beauty, imagination, musical elements, emotions, colors, space, and connections. This conscious act of taking joy in listening to art music can potentially transform our powers of listening, enhance our health, find personal meaning, and access our creative mode so that we can engage fully in life.

When the pandemic started, I brought my Conscious ListeningTM Cafés online via Zoom to create a consistent community for my studio of adult students and music appreciation class participants. My goal is to take our listening skills beyond knowledge-based information sessions where they would own their listening experience and engage wholeheartedly. There have been moments of unexpected tears, surprise revelations, courteous disagreements, and collective empathy. Our diverse group of concert music lovers identify as lifelong learners, music teachers, amateur musicians, audience members, students, parents, visual artists, writers, creative thinkers, good listeners.

Part 3: The Approach

My Conscious ListeningTM method is based on 3 ideas:

1. Striving for a quality of listening through a four-step listening process, which is a cultivated skill and a long-term practice.

2. Focusing on one thread of a specific element within a limited period of time to hear all the elements and how they work together to create the whole and how it relates to us personally.

3. Engaging in an interactive listening practice that starts with the audience’s perceptions and then links them to the bigger context, unlike music appreciation classes or program notes that limit discussions to historical and biographical facts.

Part 4: The Methodology

The “Conscious ListeningTM four-step listening process” includes describing the elements of the performance, focusing on a specific element, responding to what you hear with your emotions and memories, and breathing with the phrasing. Over time, the audience starts to engage on three levels of listening, which involve surface details, organization, and deep integration.

Part 5: The Invitation

Join me online for Conscious ListeningTM Cafés every fourth Saturday from January to October, or in person at various workshops. No music degree is needed, only a love for concert music and the desire to practice listening. Upcoming chamber music related events include:

Conscious Listening™ Café (registration required)

NYC Chamber music masterclass 

Orchestral Colors of the Piano Intensive 

Sign up for Hsing-ay’s newsletter


YouTube with Geraldine Walther (Takacs Quartet) 

YouTube of recent masterclass excerpt 

Subscribe to Hsing-ay’s YouTube channel

About Hsing-ay Hsu

Steinway Artist Hsing-ay Hsu (“Sing-I Shoo”) has performed at prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center NYC, and infuses her experience as an international prizewinner, concert producer, adjudicator, in her work as teacher, educator, and owner of Nutmeg Studio NYC. Born in Beijing, she trained at Juilliard, Yale University, Ravinia Steans Institute and was a student and guest artist at the Aspen and the Tanglewood Music Festivals. Currently on the summer faculty of Rocky Ridge and Chautauqua Institute Special Courses adult programs, Hsing-ay was a faculty member at the University of Colorado for 14 years before recently returning to New York, where her teaching activities include chamber music coaching for Special Music School and Lucy Moses School at the Kaufman Center. She accidentally became a passionate teacher to adults at the age of 14, when a stranger overheard her practicing and asked her to give lessons. Hsing-ay shares the power of music through giving unique concerts, lessons, YouTube videos, and Conscious Listening™ seminars to access the creative mode, listen consciously, and make sense of the multidimensional human experience. Visit for more information.

More Articles

Sue Mistretta celebrates 10 years of Mountainside Chamber Music in Nelson, B.C.

Sue Mistretta is an ACMP member cellist in Nelson, British Columbia, Canada. Read my interview with Sue to learn more about the adult amateur music scene in Nelson, her life as an adult beginner, and her experience creating a chamber music workshop from the ground up and running it for ten years. Maybe you would like to take a trip to beautiful Nelson, B.C. for one of her workshops this summer. Hurry to make the "Early Bird" discount deadline of May 1.

Read More ↗

Notes from the Rehearsal Studio: Learning the “Quartet for the End of Time”

In advance of the live and livestreamed masterclass this Sunday, April 7, I interviewed the four intrepid adult amateur musicians who took on the first and sixth movements of Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time." For the clarinetists, pianists, violinists and cellists among you, I hope you will be inspired to delve into Messiaen's masterwork yourselves!

Read More ↗

Announcing the 2024 Worldwide Play-In Weekend: May 17-19

May is Chamber Music Month! And ACMP is happy to announce its official Worldwide Play-In weekend: Friday, May 17 through Sunday, May 19, 2024

Read More ↗

Calvin Wiersma class on Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time”: Sunday, April 7, 3pm ET

ACMP is proud to present a special live (and live-streamed) class with violinist and chamber music coach extraordinaire Calvin Wiersma on Olivier Messiaen's seminal work, the "Quartet for the End of Time," with ACMP member musicians Kenneth Margolis (clarinet), Yolanda Wu (violin), Ben Pfeifer (cello) and Walter Kennon (piano.)

Read More ↗

An orchestra that lives up to the ideals of the United Nations

Ever since the United Nations was founded nearly 80 years ago, it has stood for nothing less than “peace, justice, and better living for all humankind.” When it comes to living up to those ideals, nowhere does that happen more than every Wednesday night in a nondescript office across from UN headquarters.

Read More ↗

Meet Joel Epstein: violinist, violist, writer, arranger, educator and ACMP member since the 1970s

Violinist, violist, writer, arranger and educator Joel Epstein has been a member of ACMP since the 1970s. Get to know Joel and read about his book "Music for the Love of It: Episodes in Amateur Music-Making" and about his important work teaching music to status-less children in Israel.

Read More ↗

Meet ACMP Pianist and Educator James Daly

You may have been wondering about the people featured in the mockups for ACMP's new Timbre app-in-progress. AI was not involved in any way - all of those people are real members of ACMP with profiles in our Directory of Chamber Musicians. California-based pianist and educator James Daly is the man in the header image for the blog article about Timbre. Read all about his path to becoming a musician and educator and enjoy a 20% ACMP member discount on his original T-shirts and other merchandise.

Read More ↗

Timbre Reveal: a sneak peak at ACMP’s new app-in-progress

Take a sneak peek at “Timbre” - ACMP's first ever app, in its early stages of development. Timbre will be a fun, visual, and more immediate way to find other ACMP members while you’re casually scrolling on your phone.

Read More ↗

A conversation with filmmaker Hilan Warshaw

In the lead-up to the ACMP Film Club event about Hilan Warshaw's "Secret Song" on Sunday, February 18 at 2pm ET, ACMP's Executive Director Stephanie Griffin had the pleasure of catching up with Hilan, and asking him about how his background as a musician led to a unique career as a filmmaker with a primary focus on musical subjects.

Read More ↗

Eugene Drucker and Hilan Warshaw discuss “Secret Song”

Join ACMP on Sunday, February 18 at 2pm Eastern for an online discussion with film-maker Hilan Warshaw and former Emerson Quartet violinist Eugene Drucker about the genesis of "Secret Song," the making of the film and the sultry story behind Alban Berg's Lyric Suite for string quartet.

Read More ↗

Harmonizing Decades: A 2024 Follow-up to our 1996 Quartet session

When ACMP member violinist Gualtiero Morpurgo was visiting the United States from Milan in 1996, he found fellow violinist Mark Atkins in the ACMP Directory. Mark organized a string quartet session with Gualtiero, and later in life learned of his touching life story.

Read More ↗

How to put on a great adult chamber music workshop

Join ACMP Secretary and Grants Committee chair Susan Alexander on Tuesday, January 23 at 2:30pm Eastern for an illuminating online panel discussion about how to organize your own adult amateur chamber music workshop. Susan will be joined by experts in the field: Javier Caballero (Executive Director of the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music), Susie Ikeda (Executive Director of the Chamber Music Conference) and pianist/educator Nancy Breth (founder of the Levine School of Music's Chamber Music Weekend for adult amateurs.)

Read More ↗

Announcing the 2023 Holiday Caption Contest Winners!

ACMP’s 2nd annual Holiday Caption Contest was a resounding success! We received 96 captions from 44 ACMP members – exactly twice as many participants as last year. This year's winners were Raul Kottler, Ken Margolis and Rebecca Sayles.

Read More ↗

Rochester Report: An Interview with NAOC Councilor Roberta Zalkind

On a recent visit to Rochester, NY, ACMP Executive Director Stephanie Griffin reached out to local NAOC councilor and fellow violist Roberta Zalkind. Roberta gave Stephanie a tour of the Eastman Community Music School (a repeat ACMP grantee), introduced her to the school's director Petar Kodzas and invited her home for dinner, where the two violists got acquainted with one another and discussed the state of amateur chamber music in Rochester. After the visit, Stephanie followed up with this interview with Roberta.

Read More ↗

Report from the Netherlands: Excerpts from “Amateurs in European Music”

Here are a few highlights from an essay written by Marine Park, participant of the Wijnhaven Festival, Dordrecht, Netherlands in conjunction with Bas van Ouwerkerk, organizer of the Festival. This version is a translation of some selected excerpts from the full essay which was published in Korean in the Music Journal of Korea.

Read More ↗

Introducing new IAC Chair, Sean Knox

ACMP is pleased to announce the appointment of Sean Knox as Chair of its International Advisory Council (IAC). Sean is a professionally trained cellist and also plays the piano (and recently started learning the harp). He is passionate about playing chamber music, and has done so with numerous groups in London, Switzerland and his home country of South Africa.

Read More ↗

Chamber Music in France! The Trouville-sur-Mer Workshop Report

The Trouville-sur-Mer chamber music workshop was a success this year. Twenty-two participants ranging in age from 11 to 82 came from various parts of France and abroad. The workshop culminated in two well-attended concerts.

Read More ↗

Rice University Chamber Music Club Partners with ACMP

The Rice University Chamber Music Club is the first official university-student organization to be affiliated with ACMP. Founded by violinist Gale Gai, the club just held its first concert, sponsored in part by a Just Play grant from ACMP!

Read More ↗

Two left hands! On playing Christopher Walken’s left hand in “A Late Quartet”

Longtime ACMP supporter, cellist and chamber music workshop organizer David Bakamjian is also a movie star! He played Christopher Walken's left hand in Yaron Zilberman's 2012 film "A Late Quartet." Watch or rewatch the film and then join ACMP in a film club discussion on Saturday December 9 at 2pm Eastern with two professional chamber musicians who coached the actors on playing violin and viola.

Read More ↗

Giving Back to the Community: ACMP and Music for Food

On the 2023 New York City Marathon Day - Sunday, November 5 - over 40 ACMP members from the New York City metropolitan area joined forces in an en masse Play-In at Broadway Presbyterian Church, as a benefit for violist Kim Kashkashian's nonprofit Music for Food, a musician-led initiative to fight hunger in our local communities.

Read More ↗

Load More


All Articles By