In 200 auditions over the course of four days last October, Associate Dean of Admissions at the Eastman School of Music Matthew Ardizzone said one musician stood out from the talented crowd.
It was Shibai Jia, known as Victor in the United States. Four days after arriving at Eastman from Zhengzho, China, Jia, 19, died after falling from a 12-story window in Eastman Commons on the Eastman School of Music campus at approximately 3 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27, Rochester police said.
Students and a security officer who heard the incident reported it immediately, and Jia was rushed to Strong Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead, police said.
According to University officials, Jia was a resident of the dorm that he fell from and would have celebrated his 20th birthday this month.
University officials have not released the cause of the fall, though they have said that “foul play” was not involved. News 10NBC reported on Aug. 29 that police ruled the death a suicide, but a series of calls to the Rochester police were not returned to confirm this.
A spokeswoman for Rochester City Hall said Wednesday that no public statements had been released about the incident.
Jia entered the Shanghai conservatory in China while in middle school to study percussion but came to Eastman to study the piano — what his parents said was his true passion.
“Jia was a kind, serious and organized person,” Ardizzone said Saturday during a memorial service held at Eastman’s Kilbourn Hall. “He had put together a strong musical program, one that made a strong impact on me. It was clear to me that he was passionate, sensitive and completely dedicated to his art form.”
The University flag flew at half-mast last weekend in Jia’s honor.
Jia wrote in his application to Eastman that he wanted to change the world through making music, and that he believed “all art forms originate from our innermost feelings,” Ardizzone said. “It was a great honor to the University community that Jia made the decision to leave home and come to Eastman, and we should feel privileged to live by his mission.”
Jia had gifts as a musician, an interest in philosophy, math, and physics and a penchant for poetry, UR President Joel Seligman said at the memorial service.
“Jia lived a remarkable life in 19 years,” Seligman said. “For his parents, friends and family, his example should continue to inspire them. He was a member of the University community, and we will always cherish his memory.”
In an emotionally wrought speech in Chinese, Jia’s father, who traveled from China with Jia’s mother for the memorial service, said his son was truly a talented man with a wealth of bravery and confidence, who never gave up his dream. One of Jia’s philosophies, he said, was that, “science can solve problems, but art can make the problems more beautiful.” He truly believed that music is freedom, Jia’s father said.
After reading a poem in Chinese that Jia had written before leaving Shanghai, Jia’s father delivered words that sent the majority of a packed hall of students into tears, most of whom, as Seligman noted at the start of the service, were complete strangers to Jia.
“Today in this kingdom of music, we’ll change his memory into music and love,” Jia’s father said through a translator. “Hold precious to your own life. By doing so, you’re loving your parents, you’re loving this world.”
Buletti is a member of the class of 2013.