Sherlyn Chew was born in Oakland, California and grew up steeped in traditional Chinese music. Her father, Poon L. Chew, a music history professor and a musician, began training her in music since she was three. She studied the pipa and guzhen under her father, as well as other musicians from Hong Kong and Taiwan who immigrated to the United States. She also began studying Beijing Opera at age 14. After graduating from University of California, Berkeley with a double major in social science and languages, Chew went to Taiwan to further her music studies and to perform. After her debut concerts in Asia and Southeast Asia, Chew returned to the United States and did her graduate work at UC Berkeley in Curriculum & Instruction with emphasis on Music Instruction and bilingual education. Soon afterwards, she began teaching third grade at Lincoln Elementary School and Chinese Music at Laney College.
Chew received numerous honors for her teaching, including the Oakland Business Council’s Arts advocate Award(1994) and Mason McDuffy Excellence in Teaching Award(1995). She was chosen by the Marcus A Foster Institute as one of two Distinguished Educators in Oakland. Chew performed in 1995 in Europe for the opening of the International Peace University. The concert marked the 50th Anniversary of the end of World War II. Also in 1995, soon after acquiring her first Chinese instruments, Chew became a full-time music teacher at Lincoln Elementary School and started the Purple Bamboo Orchestra & Chorus. She also started the Great Wall Youth Orchestra and Chorus at Laney College.
In 2005, Chew expanded the music program at Lincoln Elementary School to the International Community School. In the summer of 2006, Chew retired from Lincoln Elementary and International Community School to teach music full-time at Laney College. Victor Siu is her successor teacher at these elementary schools. Chew’s orchestras and choruses have performed in many local venues, including schools, art openings, state fairs, churches and professional sports events. They have performed with the Oakland East Bay Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony. They have been featured on the Wall Street Journal, KQED’s SPARK! Program, CNN, CBS Sunday Morning, ABC Good Morning America, San Francisco Chronicle and Oakland Tribune.