"Before I was just playing the music, now I am playing the emotions, the feelings that I feel and I want you to feel," says classical guitarist, Meng Su. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun)
As part of The Baltimore Sun's Fall Arts Guide, reporters and critics picked 10 up-and-comers whose names you should get to know. See the full list here.
Meng Su, 28, classical guitarist
Eminent classical guitarist Manuel Barrueco has a straightforward description for Meng Su, who came from her native China in 2006 to study with him at the Peabody Conservatory.
"In a capsule, I would say she is one of the greatest talents in the world right now," Barrueco says. "She has fantastic technique, a great heart, and she's really smart. Musicians can be like wines. Some you have to drink soon because they are not going to last. She will continue to develop. She is going to be around for a long time."
Su's resume reflects her mentor's assessment — top prizes at several international competitions; extensive concert tours as a solo player and member of the Beijing Guitar Duo with her colleague Yameng Wang; well-received recordings of the Duo (one with Barrueco), and, released this summer, her first solo CD.
Born in the port city of Qingdao, China, Su has been playing the guitar since the age of 5.
"It was just fate, I think," she says. "A colleague of my mom taught guitar and violin. When they asked me which I wanted to study, I chose guitar because I had never heard one. My mom really made me practice. I had fun. It was not until I was 14 or so that I realized I really wanted to do this for my life. The guitar is so subtle. Anything you can think of in the world you can bring out just by playing it."
One sign of her commitment: For years, accompanied by her mother, Su took a train ride — 16 hours each way — on weekends to study with Chen Zhi, a prominent teacher at the Central Conservatory of Beijing.
Su also found inspiration from recordings by classical guitar stars, including Barrueco.
"I played along with Manuel's recording and tried to imitate everything he did," Su says. "In 2004, I went with my teacher to Hong Kong to hear Manuel's concert there. I got to audition for him. Apparently, he was impressed."
Since moving to Baltimore, Su has earned a Performer's Certificate, Graduate Performance Diplomas in guitar and chamber music, and a Master's of Music from Peabody. This year, she starts two years of further studies for an Artist's Diploma, which Barrueco calls "the most prestigious degree at the school."
In between the studying, Su also teaches at St. Mary's College of Maryland. And then there is all the concertizing. Over the summer, she made her Baltimore Symphony Orchestra debut. The 2016-2017 season will find her giving a solo recital at the Baltimore Museum of Art in January, followed by performances with the Beijing Duo presented by various concert series in and around Baltimore.
That's just her local schedule. Concert engagements regularly take her around the country and abroad.
"I love to travel," Su says. "I love airports and airplanes. I don't know why. It's weird. I really want to do more to introduce [the guitar] to people who wouldn't have the opportunity to listen to it. And I want to do this everywhere."