Jen Shyu poses with a stringed instrument.
CPA Series

Jen Shyu: Zero Grasses: Ritual for the Losses

January 27 & 28, 2023
8 PM

General admission tickets from $10–$15. See details below.

Zero Grasses: Ritual for the Losses is dedicated to Jen Shyu’s late mother and father who are now reunited: Ana Lay Shyu 徐轉寄 (May 16, 1944 – December 8, 2021) and Tsu Pin Shyu  徐澤濱 (January 19, 1941 – April 2, 2019).  
Commissioned by John Zorn, the premiere in October 2019 of Zero Grasses: Ritual for the Losses was dedicated to Jen’s father, who passed away unexpectedly during a nap in his favorite chair while she was on a 5-month research fellowship in Japan. Unable to wake Jen’s father, Jen’s mother called 911 who arrived with their local Texas sheriff, who then sent Jen an email — which she first thought was spam — that her father had passed.  
Zero Grasses: Ritual for the Losses is a raw, coming-of-age exploration of grief, legacy, family, race, sexuality, fertility, technology’s effect on our connection with nature and to each other, our own conflicting ambitions, and an investigation of life, from when Jen’s mother handed her Jen’s childhood diaries from a shelf in her father’s closet. Embodying Zero Grasses’ closing song, “Life As You Envision,” it was Jen’s parents who inspired her to live life as she envisions it.

“A singer like no other, Shyu is both lyrical and wildly adventurous . . .”

The Nation


Tickets available for $15. $10 UNC-Chapel Hill student tickets available with valid UNC One Card. Additional discounts available. Visit our FAQ page for details.

event details

  • Runtime: 75 minutes
  • Intermission: n/a
  • Additional information: Visit our FAQ page


Composition, vocals, piano, Japanese biwa, Taiwanese moon lute, dance: Jen Shyu 

Director : Alexandru Mihail

Lighting Design : Solomon Weisbard

Set and Projection Design: Kristen Robinson

Set and Projection Design : Kate Campbell

Costume Design : Elizabeth Caitlin Ward

Special thanks to John Zorn for this commission and to Carolina Performing Arts for supporting this performance. Deepest gratitude to the original creative team, Alex, Kristen, Solomon, Caitlin, Kate, Neil and Corinne, for their friendship and dedication to this project. Very special thanks to my dearest late mother Ana Shyu who passed away December 8, 2021, and who got to see this show virtually at the height of Covid; and to Arnav Shah, Gregory Wylie, Carla Grande, David Pfendler, Desri Yulita Taek, Nelia Belo, Naldo Rei, Fuensanta Mendez, Rodrigo Parejo, and Garin Nugroho. Zero Grasses: Ritual for the Losses was made possible by the support of Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, United States Artists Fellowship, NYSCA/NYFA Fellowship, Japan-US Friendship Commission’s US- Japan Creative Artists Fellowship, Hermitage Artist Retreat, Civitella Ranieri Foundation. 


Guggenheim Fellow, USA Fellow, Doris Duke Artist, multilingual vocalist-composer-multi-instrumentalist-dancer Jen Shyu is “one of the most creative vocalists in contemporary improvised music” (The Nation). Born in Peoria, Illinois to Taiwanese and East Timorese immigrants, she’s produced eight albums, performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Theater of Korea, Rubin Museum, was named Downbeat’s 2017 Rising Star Female Vocalist, and is a Fulbright scholar speaking 10 languages. She has been in residency at the Kennedy Center for REACH’s “Office Hours,” curated by Marc Bamuthi Joseph. Her ”Song of Silver Geese” was among The New York Times’ “Best Albums of 2017.” She’s currently touring her third solo production Zero Grasses: Ritual for the Losses (commissioned by John Zorn) across all 50 states and has received wide critical acclaim for her latest album Zero Grasses: Ritual for the Losses, with “When I Have Power” on Nate Chinen’s “Best Songs of 2021” list for NPR. She is a Paul Simon Music Fellows Guest Artist, a Steinway Artist and co-founder with Sara Serpa of M³ (Mutual Mentorship for Musicians), a radical model of mentorship for underrepresented women and non-binary composer-performers around the world. 

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