From computer science to music: Alum develops career as a singer

December 10, 2018 — by Kaitlyn Tsai

Name: Cynthia Yih Shih, stage name Vienna Teng

Age: 40

Education: Saratoga High School (Class of 1996), Stanford University Computer Science (Class of 2000), Ross School of Business, University of Michigan (Class of 2013), School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan (Class of 2013)

Occupation: Singer-songwriter

Genres: Folk, pop, indie folk, chamber pop (accompanied by her own piano compositions)

Albums: “Waking Hour” (2002), “Warm Strangers” (2004), “Dreaming Through the Noise” (2006), “Inland Territory” (2009) “Aims” (2013),

Awards: Independent Music Award for Best Song (Pop) for “Level Up” (2014), Independent Music Award for Best Song (Sing Out for Social Action) for “Level Up” (2014), Independent Music Award for Best Song (A Capella) for “The Hymn of Acxiom” (2014), Independent Music Award for Best Album (Adult Contemporary) for “Aims” (2014)

Despite her success as a musician, Vienna Teng acknowledges the personal challenges that arise from her career. On her website, Teng said it takes her months, sometimes even years to write a song.

“I don’t revise all that much; it just takes that long for all the pieces to form and assemble,” she said. “And it seems to get harder as I go, as the self-critic voice gets more insistent.”

In a 2004 interview, Teng told NPR’s Liane Hansen her perfectionism greatly shapes her career. However, it encourages Teng to constantly evolve and improve her work.

“I never feel comfortable unless I'm moving forward, or moving in some new direction," she told Hansen.

Today, Teng works as a management consultant but is also maintaining her music career. She still records songs and goes on tour, according to the biography on her official website.

“Every musician has a different kind of marriage with music, and mine seems to thrive on a healthy dose of long distance,” she said.