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Magdalen Hsu-Li

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Magdalen Hsu-Li is an American singer-songwriter, painter, speaker, writer and cultural activist. She identifies herself as bisexual and is Chinese American.


Hsu-Li was born in the southern Virginia city of Martinsville to Chinese immigrant parents. She began piano lessons at age 8 but was mainly interested in painting in her early years. Charlotte Dillon. "Magdalen Hsu-Li" at Accessed January 15, 2007.
She attended college at the Rhode Island School of Design where she won accolades including the Florence Leif Award for Excellence in Painting, the Talbot Rantoul Scholarship and the Chicago Institute of the Arts Oxbow Fellowship. After graduating, she moved to Seattle, Washington, and discovered a passion for music over visual art. She matriculated at the Cornish College of the Arts, where she studied classical music and jazz and won a music scholarship in 1995. In 2008 she graduated from Berklee College of Music with a degree in Songwriting.

Performance and recordings

She began public performances in 1996 and released her first album, Evolution, on her own Chickpop Records label in 1998. Her second album, Fire, was released in 2001 and was named one of Performing Songwriter magazine's top 12 DIY albums of the year, and best producer at the Outvoice Music Awards. Her song "As I am" was included on Performing Songwriter's ninth compilation album in 2003.Compilation 9 Performing Songwriter magazine, 2003. Her third album, Smashing The Ceiling, was released and had performances by the drummer Matt Chamberlain, the violinist Eyvind Kang and the guitarist Timothy Young. After releasing Smashing The Ceiling" she graduated summa cum laude from Berklee College of Music with a Bachelor of Music in 2008. While attending Berklee she was a piano principle in the Songwriting Department, and a recipient of the Berklee Achievement Scholarship and Jack Maher Scholarship for Excellence in Songwriting. She is a multi-instrumentalist who writes most of her songs and tours with her partner Greane.


Hsu-Li's music can be considered derivative of alternative rock, pop, folk and jazz"Magdalen Hsu-Li". The Ectophiles' Guide. Accessed January 15, 2007. and is described as having "vocals comparable to Tori Amos and Alanis Morissette and music at times reminiscent of Ani DiFranco's solo albums and other times of percussion-driven Rusted Root."
Hsu-Li describes her music as "pop rock alt folk singer songwriter music with a tinge of country, jazz, and punk."


Hsu-Li's music has received generally positive reviews. It is described as "exquisitely furious, beautiful, and exciting" by Performing Songwriter magazine, "sweet, melodic, and real" by The New York Times, "an achingly gorgeous collection of piano based rock recalling the finest moments of Tori Amos or Ben Folds Five" by Yolk magazine and a sumptuous feast for the ears by Curve magazine. "A Magazine" wrote, "her blend of hard-grounded folk and sweet siren lyrics makes an enduring impression upon the American music scene her distinguishing factor is her cool, edgy, sound and courage to be sensitive, tender, and feminine. As she carves her identity as an artist in an industry where Asian women are not thought of as musical powerhouses or innovators – Magdalen is a rare force with which to reckon."
About Fire, the Advocate wrote, "finely crafted, melodic, piano-based songs that borrow equally from pop, folk, jazz, blues and even punk."

In her own words

Her songs visually portray what she sees as a trained painter while addressing universal themes about identity, spirituality, consciousness, love, loss, and relationships. "I write completely from the heart," she says, "but also from my cultural heritages and the places I'm from (the southeast, northeast, and west coast). "One of the problems in our society is a lack of awareness for the wealth of cultural diversity that surrounds us," she says. "I intend to always be defining issues of identity, raising awareness, and bringing communities together through my music, art, and writing. My primary goal as an artist is to help break through the glass ceiling in America so that Asians and other cultural minorities become accepted as artistic and commercial forces in popular music and other artistic mediums."
Currently, she is working on completing a new book and CD. "This book and its accompanying CD will be the culmination of many stories, chapters, and tales within the paths that my life has taken," she says. "Throughout my life I have rejected many traditions that were integral to my Chinese heritage, while simultaneously reclaiming others. I did not start out my life knowing what I would become. Rather, the shape and course of my life were composed like a painting or a piece of music, by the flow of events and people I encountered along the way, the choices that I made." I've always tried to live my life by listening to my heart and following the Dao." She says, "And I've been fortunate to have some amazing teachers and healers in my life. They've steadied me on my path along the way, given me insights and guidance to help me be my highest self in this lifetime. It's time to share what they have taught me with others – and that is what this new book and CD will be about".
;With ChickPop Records
  • 1997 Muscle and Bone (EP)
  • 1998 Evolution
  • 2001 Fire
  • 2005 Smashing the Ceiling


External links

Category:Living people
Category:American female singer-songwriters
Category:American musicians of Chinese descent
Category:Bisexual musicians
Category:American singer-songwriters
Category:Bisexual women
Category:LGBT musicians from the United States
Category:LGBT people from Virginia
Category:LGBT American people of Asian descent
Category:LGBT singers from the United States
Category:LGBT songwriters
Category:Rhode Island School of Design alumni
Category:Berklee College of Music alumni
Category:Cornish College of the Arts alumni
Category:Year of birth missing (living people)

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