Lights of NYU Shanghai

NYU Shanghai has its own Alma Mater in time to celebrate the graduation of its inaugural Class of 2017. Composed by Student Life staff and NYU alumni, Jeremy Hissong (Steinhardt '14), Tan Renzhong (GSAS '14) and Affiliate Professor Dianna Heldman, the song took shape over the past eight months. Click here to enjoy the soundtrack.

As both composer and producer, Hissong told us  that the metaphor of light and the importance of diversity were the conceptual starting points--symbolic for their representation of the city, the essence of NYU Shanghai and the bright future ahead of its students.

Tuning in to other Alma Maters from US and Chinese universities, Hissong was inspired to compose something “less traditional”, and intentionally veered away early on from the more formal style present in New York University’s Alma Mater.

“We wanted to go for something more upbeat. Formal songs have their place, but there is a feeling of ‘liftoff’, like an airplane, that comes along with this inaugural graduation ceremony,” said Hissong. “Rather than using the Alma Mater to tell everyone that this is a time to focus and be serious, we wanted to embrace the excitement of this special occasion, and build on that energy using music.”

Hissong and Tan captured the spirit of NYU Shanghai’s diversity by integrating a combination of violin, bamboo flute, and percussion from all over the world into the piece, adding touches of Chinese Peking Opera throughout the framework.

“We tried countless iterations of different instrumental arrangements and melodic structures, staying conscious of the need for the lyrics and melody to work in tandem to convey the essence of the song," he said.

A member of the NYU Shanghai Chorale, Tan joined the songwriting efforts last winter primarily as a contributor of Chinese lyrics--driven not only by her passion for music but her own connections to the University. “As an NYU graduate, I fused my own understanding of this institution into the composition. To be able to work on the Alma Mater is a perfect way to give back something special to a community that has educated, nurtured, and changed me on so many levels.” she said.

Instead of word by word translation, Tan incorporated a blend of traditional and modern Chinese phrases to echo and build upon the sentiment of the English lyrics.

The two partners admitted the biggest challenge of the composition process was to translate the feelings around graduation into music without being overtly sentimental. “This song carries a colorful mix of feelings. We’ve refined the instrumental arrangement at the beginning of the song to a balance of eastern and western instruments that we feel portray the organic energy of our University,” Tan said.

After several rounds of heavy polishing, the two were happy  to find that their completed demo was well-received by many students and faculty. “We hope that the Alma Mater can resonate in a special way with the broad spectrum of people that make up our diverse community,” Hissong said.

Hissong highlighted his favorite section lies toward the end of the song, when an unexpected key change gives the song’s energy level a big boost. “The lyrics from both languages start to play off each other in short phrases to convey a unified message,” he said.

“In many ways, this is a metaphor of what NYU Shanghai should strive to be; we are a community of people from different backgrounds that have different ways of expressing ourselves, but special energy comes from the moments when we are able to work together,” he added.

The two composers also expressed gratitude to the NYU Shanghai Chorale, Steinhardt Chorale, musicians and students who made either instrumental or vocal contributions to the song. “It’s so amazing to see how many of our students, staff and faculty members from both Shanghai and New York came together for the song. In this sense, the Alma Mater is a collective piece of work that truly demonstrates the unifying and collaborative spirit of our institution,” Tan concluded.

 

Alma Mater: Lights of NYU Shanghai

 

Lyrics

 

NYU Shanghai Alma Mater

上海纽约大学校歌

 

We have come to stand together, soon we'll part our separate ways,

But we leave behind a legacy to light another's way.

 

We will build on our foundation, cross the mountains and the seas,

Giving rise to strength in unity for all the world to see,

Giving rise to strength in unity for all the world to see.

 

We are Shanghai, we're the city of lights.

We are Shanghai, and the future is bright.

We're chasing horizons, dispel the dark give rise to

Brightness and love for all lands.

The world is not too big for us to be friends.

 

我们来自五湖四海,怀抱热诚理想

求索新知,收获灼见,准备好扬帆起航

 

以天下为己任,以世界为课堂

我们点亮盏盏微光,照亮彼此方向

我们点亮盏盏微光,照亮前行方向

 

We are Shanghai, we're the city of lights.

We are Shanghai, and the future is bright.

We're chasing horizons, dispel the dark give rise to

Brightness and love for all lands.

The world is not too big for us to live...

 

We've opened up our minds, we're reaching for the skies.

We're united together, we breathe as one.

Bridging our nations, the best is yet to come.

 

We are Shanghai, we're the city of lights.

We are Shanghai, and the future is bright.

 

The future's in Shanghai, 这城市流光溢彩

We are Shanghai, 下一站何其精彩

We're chasing horizons, dispel the dark give rise to

Brightness and love for all lands.

听世界在召唤,未来由你我涂彩

边憧憬边勇敢

 

The world is not too big,

For all of us to sing.

The world is not too big for us

To live with open minds,

To live with open hearts,

We're reaching for the sky,

We are Shanghai.


 

Composition, Arrangement, Production, Mixing, Vocals - Jeremy Hissong

Composition, Vocals -  Renzhong Joyce Tan

Composition, Conducting - Dianna Heldman

Mastering - Nick Pitman

Conducting - Yi Mickey Zhang

 

Violin - Stephanie Song, Hengyuan Shen

 

Bamboo Flute - Lingjian Ouyang

 

Vocals - Abiral Chitrakar Phnuyal, Anthony Comeau, Della Wu, Dongyang Fei, Flora Lu, Foong Soon Cheong, Grace Zijin Gao, Hanna Rinderknecht-Mahaffy, Haoran Huang, Jack Zhu Hua, Jianghao Sam Hu, Jiaqi Ariel Dong, Jiaqiao Frank Xiang, Jiaxin Zheng, Katherine Li, Liam Han Shaw, Maya Wang, Mengchu Agnes Zhu, Natalie Kuan, Ninglu Ma, Rong Sang, Ruoxiao Yu, Sara Jo Battat, Shuanyi Shiny Wu, Shuo Jiang, Siyuan Hu (Kelvin), Tri Hoang, Victoria Rusu, Xinyi Wang, Xirui Zhao, Yang, Xuyuan, Yilun Wu, Yinmiao Li, Yixaun Chen, Yue Melody Yin, Yunzhu Irene Gao, Yutong Liu, Zeyu Richard Zhao, Zhengyi Chen, Zixin Harry Wang, Ziyu Lu.