Meet the Musicians

We arrived in Hanoi in September 2016 to begin the second season of the Hanoi New Music Ensemble. Jeff and I were hopeful that the enthusiasm and accomplishments of the inaugural season would keep the ensemble moving forward — all signs were good!

However, there are challenges forming any new group throughout the globe. Which players are a good match for the demands of new music? How will we prepare and rehearse within players’ busy teaching and orchestra schedules? Where will the concerts be held and how will we find an audience? Who will organize the rehearsals, percussion, and piano?

One step at a time

After the inaugural 2012 LA International New Music Festival in Los Angeles, composer-in-residence Vu Nhat Tan turned to Jeff and me, remarking that “Once is not enough!” He was wrapping up six weeks in Los Angeles, courtesy of the Asian Cultural Council in New York City, and we had spent much time dreaming of next steps for contemporary music in his hometown of Hanoi, Vietnam.

Southwest Chamber Music’s historic Ascending Dragon Music Festival in 2010, the largest cultural exchange between Vietnam and the U.S., had left us with many questions about the U.S. Department of State’s goal of identifying a new generation of cultural leaders. Had we accomplished this goal?

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.