A native of Wuhan, China, Sando Shia was born into a musical family. She began both piano and violin lessons at an early age. She entered Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music at only 12 years old, and at 19, during the Cultural Revolution, she was sent into the countryside and worked in the rice fields for two years. After the Cultural Revolution, she joined the Central Ballet Company of China (now National Ballet of China, Beijing) as its solo violinist and toured with the ensemble throughout China and Europe.
Shia came to the United States in 1980 at the invitation of Kent State University, where she lectured and performed. In 1981, she won the Josef Gingold Award at the Kent/Blossom Music Festival. Shortly afterward, she played a very challenging audition for legendary violinist Jascha Heifetz and, as a result, received a full scholarship to study with Heifetz at UCLA until 1985.
In 1989, after winning the nationwide audition, Sando Shia was invited by Sir Georg Solti to join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She formerly was assistant concertmaster of the Phoenix Symphony and assistant second violin of the Denver Symphony Orchestra (now Colorado Symphony).