Trinity Nguyen displays her passion and culture in one instrument

Trinity Nguyen smiles with her 16-string zither. Photo by Madelyn Moua

By Bethany Pham, Staff Writer & Madelyn Moua, Staff Photographer 

Junior Trinity Nguyen was first acquainted with the zither three years ago at the Vietnamese organization Lạc Hồng Performing Arts Group.

As a musically-inclined person who appreciates tradition, it was no surprise that Nguyen quickly made the decision to learn how to play the zither as a way to integrate Vietnamese culture into her life.

“I wanted to make sure that my culture never went away within my family, and I wanted to make my parents proud,” said Nguyen.

The zither is an undoubtedly unique and lesser known instrument. The word “zither” encompasses an array of similarly constructed stringed instruments that are largely used in central European folk music.

However, Nguyen’s Vietnamese zither known as Đàn tranh falls under a category of East Asian zithers that have Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Mongolian incarnations. Equipped with either 16 or 18 strings, the zither’s body is composed of a large, flat, wooden box. It is played horizontally; performers use both hands to pluck the strings and their feet to keep beat.

Along with her busy schedule, Nguyen rigorously practices eight hours a week and is an active member of the Lạc Hồng Performing Arts Group. By adopting this instrument, she feels as though she has reconnected with her roots.

“Playing the zither has better connected me to my culture in general,” Nguyen said. “It has made me grow closer to everyone in the Vietnamese community, and I have come to love my culture more because of this instrument. It’s made my life better; I’ve met so many people along the way, and I’ve become a better-rounded person and student.”

In the future, Nguyen wants to teach her little brother Trenton how to play the zither as well. She hopes her love for it will also inspire him to identify with his family’s background.

“I believe that passing it [the skill of playing the zither] onto my younger sibling will help keep my heritage alive,” said Nguyen.