Ancient Vietnam in Hue

Madame Hoai hugged me following the performance by the Ancient Ensemble of Tonkin and said in Vietnamese — “America and Vietnam, we are friends.”

With the Ken Burns – Lynn Novick documentary “The Vietnam War” bringing a new perspective to our countries’ shared history, I am reflecting daily about my own personal journey over the past 12 years in this incredible country. My husband and I are honored to have been appointed in 2015 by Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture as Vietnam’s first American artistic advisors. This is a result of many years of work in the country with our ensemble as well as recognizing our assistance in founding the three-year old Hanoi New Music Ensemble.

The International Language

Music is truly the international language, able to be understood and experienced in any country around the world. I learned this on my first trip to Europe as a graduate student and member of the Boston University orchestra which had been chosen as one of ten orchestras worldwide to compete in the Herbert von Karajan competition in Berlin. Under the baton of the late Joseph Silverstein, we won second prize, and interacted with colleagues from all over the world for the two week festival. Before leaving for the tour, Mr. Silverstein admonished all of us to remember that we might be the first Americans the other musicians would meet, and that we were cultural ambassadors for our country. In other words, people would form their opinions of America from each of us.

Multiple Hats

My life has been defined by multiple hats, switching each of my career roles as necessary. My first love was the theater, but I was also involved in music from a very early age. Dabbling in the visual arts, film and dance provided me with lifelong appreciation. Add to this many opportunities that came my way growing up near New York City, and it doesn’t surprise me that my career paths reflect my multiple interests and training.

As I look back, I am fortunate that my parents had a small family business that gave me a valuable model for self-employment. When my husband Jeff von der Schmidt and I decided to form a non-profit corporation many years later, we knew what that would mean on a daily basis

Inspiration and Language

Every morning we wake up to the newest perversion of our language – right is left, news is fake, pop is art – all now acceptable and beyond most people’s comprehension. How did it become so out of control?

As I begin my first blog, I find that the topics I wish to write about cannot be divorced from the current state of U.S. and world affairs. I have made my life in the arts, which has taken me on unexpected and wonderful paths. Many musicians travel, meet colleagues from other countries, represent their country artistically, and are unofficial ambassadors of their nation’s cultural life.

1 2 3 4