“This is precisely the time when artists go to work.”
– Toni Morrison
“In Tandem” is dedicated to bringing new voices to classical music, helping to break the barriers of color in classical music, as well as introducing the younger generation to music that relates to current social issues.
When I met Gabriela Lena Frank about 20 years ago at a festival created by my music teacher Sergiu Luca, I was struck by her vision, tenacity, integrity and musicianship. True to Gabi’s spirit, she disposed of convention and three years ago, created her own academy where the applicants’ main requirement is to express their music with heart and integrity. More recently, we have spent hours talking about the inequities in classical music and the barriers she has had to overcome.
Most people of color in the US have to deal with racism. As an Asian American, I grew up with subtle racial discriminations that so many Asians have suffered as the ‘model minority’. We are also viewed by many as the perpetual foreigner. My African American partner, formerly a police officer, has had to deal with more blatant discrimination. When a superior officer casually mentioned to my partner to do “n***** jumping jacks”, he had enough and reported the incident to his chief, crossing that thin blue line. He risked everything, spent three years fighting for justice, and saw little support from a supposedly liberal town. The experience I shared with him was eye-opening, humbling and infuriating. It also left me feeling incredibly ineffective.
When the whole country went into quarantine, it gave me a lot more time to think about the hurdles Gabi had to overcome in the classical music world. Issues of non-diversity and elitism have been systemic in so many of the larger organizations such as the symphony orchestras. As a member of the Boston Symphony, I have had to look more closely at my own lack of awareness, and as a result, my inertia in regards to truly diverse programming.
As a result and with Gabi’s help, I have created the large-scale project, “In Tandem”.
Phase one of “In Tandem” will involve co-commissioning with the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy ten composers from GLFCAM to compose a short duo for violin and one other instrument of their choice, each work written to express a social cause close to each composer’s heart. I will perform the violin part and my duo partner will be a professional musician whose livelihood has been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 quarantine. I will also have the fortune of having two of the composers be my duo partner! Two composers will be showcased each month starting January 2021 through May 2021 with interviews with both performers and composers.
Phase two will bring these pieces into both private and public schools for two purposes–to introduce social awareness inspired by the emotional connection to music as well as breaking the stereotypical label that classical music is only for the elite.
It is my hope that this project will be a springboard to connecting other art forms, including visual, dance and literature, with music in order to facilitate positive change and growth in our society.
IN LIGHT OF THE CHAOS CREATED BY THE PANDEMIC, THE MULTITUDE OF SOCIAL INJUSTICES, THE CLIMATE CRISIS, AND THE POLITICAL STRIFE OF TODAY, THE WORLD NEEDS MUSIC NOW MORE THAN EVER–MUSIC TO INCITE ACTION, TO REFLECT PAIN, TO SOOTHE, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY TO CREATE CHANGE.
One of the fun benefits of the In Tandem project is collaborating with musicians who I might not ordinarily have a chance to work with. Our next premiere, which will upload on February 25, will be Akshaya Avril Tucker’s “Dictionary of Falling Flowers” with percussionist, Maria Finkelmeier. When I told Akshaya that I was interested […]
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I feel fortunate to have ten wonderful composers on board the “In Tandem” project. Every time I receive a draft or finished piece in my inbox, I feel like a kid on Christmas morning, eager to unwrap a surprise gift. Every duo has been a joy to dive into with my duo partner, who each […]
At the beginning of “In Tandem”, my focus was on ten wonderful duos from ten unique and amazing composers whose voices intrigued me in different ways. But as I embarked on this project, I could never fathom the richness of the journey. A part of this project is to bring to the forefront some of […]