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Year of the Monkey

I had a very special evening last night at the Kennedy Center. Once again, I saw that culture has no boundaries and can inspire and unite people from around the globe.

Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra was visiting from China to perform at the Kennedy Center to celebrate the Chinese New Year – the Year of the Monkey. Maestro Muhai Tang conducted.

The orchestra was short one violinist. Patricia Lee, my fellow violinist and former Manhattan School of Music classmate, recommended me to the group. Most of the orchestra members were Chinese with others from Russia, France and South Korea.

The entire rehearsal was going to be in Chinese! I was worried that I wouldn’t understand the instructions. Some of the orchestra members spoke English but most did not.

But the language of music is universal! It wasn’t difficult to figure out what we were trying to do.

Most of the program pieces were Chinese. Violin virtuoso Dan Zhu from China performed solo in Waxman’s Carmen Fantasy. We also played an excerpt from Puccini’s Turandot – a standard piece in the opera repertoire that I’ve played many times with the Washington National Opera.

Whenever I collaborate with or hear musicians from different parts of the world, I’m fascinated by how similarly we play the same music regardless of differences in language, religion, politics, customs and race.

Passages that challenge me are similarly challenging for musicians from other countries. We all share similar musical and technical tendencies….good and bad.

Pieces included several traditional instruments and folk melodies from China. Pianist Haochen Zhang from China played a concerto named Yellow River by Chinese composer Xinghai Xian.

Traditional Chinese instrument pipa

Zhang won the 13th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas! From China to Texas to Washington with many other stops along the way…

Pianist Haochen Zhang

Music and culture are universal!

Colorful sounds and harmonies of traditional Chinese music mesmerized the performers and the audience of over two thousand people.

Although this concert celebrated the Chinese New Year, I saw many different races in the audience. Everyone roared and jumped up from their seats at the end of each piece!

This was my first time playing traditional Chinese music and I was very moved.

It was truly a triumphant concert. Music and the arts are a powerful force that inspire and give hope to people regardless of their backgrounds. Culture transcends differences and can overcome conflict. It is a reminder of what we have in common and not what separates us.

Culture saves!

#ShenzhenSymphonyOrchestra #KennedyCenter #China #MuhaiTang #ManhattanSchoolofMusic #DanZhu #WashingtonNationalOpera #HaochenZhang #XinghaiXian #YellowRiver #VanCliburnInternationalPianoCompetition #PatriciaLee #ChineseNewYear #YearoftheMonkey

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