Artist of the Issue: Shine Lee ’20


From left to right: Shine Lee ’20, Q Zhang ’18, and Frank Cai ’20 won the silver prize in the 2018 Chinese Club Stir-Fry Competition.

Shine Lee ’20 is a four-year senior, an avid cook, a member of the orchestra, and a poet. Angela Choi ’21, the orchestra’s concertmaster, says that “Shine’s laugh and smile lights up the orchestra rehearsal, and I’d hate to imagine first period Monday [rehearsal] without him.” In this issue, Arts & Leisure highlights the multiple forms of art in which Shine has been involved over his high school career.


This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.




Tell us about your YouTube project, the Sunshine Cookbook. 

The Sunshine Cookbook is a food comedy video series that I post on my YouTube channel. At first, it was supposed to be an actual follow-along for people to use at Hotchkiss. Definitely similar to what Kalif Grant ’19 did last year. …I’ve made other videos before, and I figured that I wanted to do something last year and in the spring. I called my friend Dominic Bellido ’20 over and the rest is history. People did find them funny and I’ve kept on making them. 

I like showing how [food] isn’t so much just about the dishes but also about sharing each other’s company. …It’s the fact that you can share your presence with others over something that everyone has a different taste yet similar interest in – that just might be what’s really at the heart of food. The inspiration of cooking ties back to my background. My parents were usually away a lot during the day, so a lot of my meals were served by my grandparents. I didn’t have a lot to do, so I would sit over the counter and see what they were doing. I ended up just learning and copying them. The same thing happened last year when I was watching over Kalif and learning from him. I was really surprised when he made this chickpea falafel from scratch. 


What do you have prepared next on the Sunshine Cookbook? Who do you have planned to guest star next? 

Unfortunately, I’m not confident that I can do any more. Being at Hotchkiss with my friends made the Sunshine Cookbook what it is. It just felt authentic, and I’m not sure I can bring out that same energy by myself. I always love making videos and I’ll continue doing that, whether it be film or comedy videos. 


When and how did you start playing the violin? 

My brother, my mom, and my dad were already a musical trio when I was growing up. They would volunteer as accompaniment for mass at the local church in [New] Jersey: my brother on the cello, my mom on the piano, and my dad on the violin. I ended up being the fourth member. The violin seemed the coolest to me, and my dad was playing it too, so it just fit. …Unfortunately, we haven’t actually had the chance to play together, because of work and my brother going to boarding school, so we’ve never really had a stable unit. I’m [not] super religious, but…for the past two years, I’ve been playing the violin at St. Mary’s Church in Lakeville.


How are you pursuing your music away from campus?

I guess a silver lining for me is that I get to spend time with my brother in DC. This is the most amount of time we’ve spent together in ten years because of college and boarding schools. We’ve never really had time together, except when we were young kids. So now we get to do a lot more together, which is both good and bad. More music is born out of the violin-cello duets we keep trying to do. Our grandparents over WhatsApp would request hymns for us to play together, and we would record. It ended up being a nightly thing when we would play a piece for them. Bill Withers just died recently, so we were playing “Lean On Me,” a pop song. We would also play hymns and Korean folk songs. We might even post a few videos online. 

Lee poses with Mr. Fabio Witkowski, head of the visual and performing arts department, after a concert.

What’s your favorite part of the music curriculum? 

I love how there’s a place for everyone in the curriculum. When I first came in, I was never really passionate about being a great violinist. When I saw how awesome the orchestra was and how the other violinists were so much better, I became more excited about the violin. …I realized that even though I wasn’t going to be the best violinist that ever was, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for me as a violinist at Hotchkiss. I’ve found that place through playing [as the church accompaniment], in chapel, class meeting, or for friends. 


What’s your most memorable experience? 

My favorite moment would be playing “Married Life” from the movie Up during my chapel talk this September. …I felt like that was me being my most authentic self. …It’s harder to have that same feeling when I’m playing for the orchestra or Blue Notes. Although I love both groups, it was definitely different. 


Tell us about your poetry! 

I write in class when I’m not paying attention. I’m really inspired by Charles Frankenbach’s free-writes in English class. I’m so glad that I took the courage to try writing. At my old school, creative writing, especially poetry, was looked down upon. They were like, “It’s not cool, and it’s not masculine.” I still think this stereotype is a thing. I think that poetry is one of the best things that we as humans have to offer. I just got published in the American High School Poetry Contest, and it would not have happened if not for Mr. Frankenbach’s support and what I learned in English class.

Shine Lee’s poem titled “Summer” was featured in the 25th issue of ink.