Festival Hopping, Wedding Bells & Bucknell Happiness

The soggy leaves and muted raindrops on my backyard deck here in the quiet upstate New York countryside are providing a peaceful, perhaps melancholic backdrop for the writing of this overdue post.  It’s hard to believe that we’re already more than halfway through our fall semester, though the ripe apples at Cornell Orchards and and the delicious roasted squash at Bethe House dinners are a good giveaway…

As I finally recover from a rather brutal summer (my feeling is that shingles plus a bedbug infestation while nursing a broken heart should be against the laws of nature), I’ve been delighted to look back on the artistic joys that pulled me through it all.

August began with a return to my beloved PACO Camp where a team of faculty usher nearly 90 brilliant, bright-eyed teenagers through the wonderful world of string quartets.  From there it was off to Italy for my first summer as co-director of the Paesaggi Musicali Toscani festival in Siena.  I was honored to play two concertos – Piazzolla’s Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (arr. Desyatnikov) and the European premiere of Jorge Grossman’s Mosoq under the Tuscan moon to a sold-out crowd for opening night.  A few days later, a three-hour drive to Rome, a nine-hour flight to Detroit, a 90-minute flight to Minneapolis, a 45-minute flight to Duluth and finally an hour in the car brought me to NLCMI 2019 up in Minnesota’s untouched Boundary Waters.  Playing and coaching chamber music on Lake Vermilion amongst family and friends is pretty much the best life has to offer.

September started with a bang as my studio settled into their groove – five fantastic new freshman have joined the crew and they’re doing a bang-up job.  My new bluegrass “band,” (a generous use of the word) String Theory did some fabulously fun gigs at the Fall Friends of Stewart Park Festival and La Tourelle.  I was tickled to learn a bunch of new tunes and fiddle my way back to childhood alongside Ithaca’s finest folk musicians.  The next week, shoe-shine bowings gave way to Schubert bowings, and I headed to Minneapolis for the CMSM‘s first concert of the year, celebrating Tony Ross’s 60th birthday with Schubert’s monumental cello quintet.  Just a few days later our entire family and so many friends found ourselves out in the Bay for my little brother’s wedding!  It was a beautiful weekend filled with laughter, tears, dancing, a video montage, great food, and deeply special music – plus a surprise baby shower for dear cousin Yoonie.  Congratulations, Nathan and Natali!

And here we are in October, which started with another family wedding, this time for cousin Andrea and her new hubby Rob.  The rainy day brought good luck upon the couple and we closed the night with an Italian feast – evviva gli sposi, Mr. & Mrs. Glass!  After a swing back to NYC for another dive into the world of Indian classical Carnatic violin-ing with my teacher Arun Ramamurthy, I headed back up to Ithaca for a some whirlwind teaching and meetings.  Just a few days later, I found myself at Bucknell University for a wonderful weekend of master classes, rehearsals, and a recording of Dan Temkin‘s gorgeous piano trio, Flow which we will perform live with Bucknell Dance later this year.  Tomorrow it’s down to the City for a week of Knights camp to inaugurate our 19-20 season alongside BalletCollective plus a reunion of the whole Ne(x)tworks gang for a “then & now” retrospective to bid farewell to the group, of which I was a part for 10 years, as past and present members take the stage together one last time.

And as always, a photo diary…

Post-faculty concert at PACO Camp – how awesome are this posters our kiddos made!?

Opening night @ PMT 2019 – Piazzolla and Grossman with Milano Classica…

…and post-concert with wonderful friends and “family” in San Quirico d’Orcia!

NLCMI 2019!
Stuffing my face with Minnesota State Fair sweet corn…totally amazing.

Lunch and dinner dates with strong, powerful, amazing lady friends, both downstate and up…
My maiden voyage playing first fiddle in the Schubert quintet – CMSM season opener with Papa Kim, Sabina Thatcher, Beth Rapier and Tony Ross (Happy 60th, T!)…
…meeting brand-new dear Annabel…

…and Nathan & Natali’s wedding!
Pre-wedding surprise baby shower for Yoonie (and Emmett, still in the oven)
My ceremony music partner-in-crime, James

Post-nuptial party time in San Francisco – greatest dimsum lunch ever and a walk through the Botanical Gardens =)

Andrea & Rob’s wedding, with some Walker family time before the reception started…
…and Bucknell happiness – workshopping Dan’s piece in Rooke Hall with Qing Jiang and Christine Lamprea…
…and meeting lovely baby Kate (it’s a halfie thing, we’re taking over the world)…
…recording Flow – that’s a wrap!

 

Sandpoint Nostalgia, Summer Knights & Adieu, AQ…

Amidst this sweltering summer, it is with a heavy heart that I share the bittersweet news that I will be stepping down from the Aizuri Quartet.  It has been three incredible years complete with many hours on the road, intense rehearsals, master classes, and wonderful collaborations, not to mention a Gold Medal at the 2017 Osaka Competition, the 2018 M-Prize, a residency at the MET Museum, and a trip to the 2019 Grammys this past February.  With the group wanting to move toward full-time-land, a new promotion at Cornell and two new co-artistic directorships for me, there comes a time when life only allows for so much…

We performed our last concert together on the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota’s season finale, and though an evening of many emotions, the performance was something quite magical for me.  Though this is a closing of one chapter, there are new ones to be read, and I wish the other three gals the best as they move forward.  Below is a link to videos of that concert…

Post-Tuscany brought about a super special trip, a nostalgia tour of sorts, to celebrate my mom’s birthday.  With brother Nathan getting married this fall, we took one more “pentagon” getaway, this time back to our old stomping grounds in Sandpoint, Idaho.  This sacred spot was home to Gunther Schuller‘s Festival at Sandpoint Institute, where my dad headed up the chamber music division.  We moved out to Mt. Schweitzer every summer to tag along, attend fiddle camp, hike the mountains, swim in Lake Pend Oreille and eat tons of huckleberries.  This trip, nearly 20 years later, was  a revisiting and recreating of nearly all of those activities (minus the huckleberries…it was too early in the season for those puppies)…

Back in New York, The Knights had a couple of wonderful Mendelssohn octet concerts, one at our home base in Brooklyn and the second at Temple Emanu-El – one of the most stunning edifices in all of New York City.  It was an honor and rite of passage to perform in such a special space.  Following that concert I had an Ariana-and-Alma day complete with our annual shopping trip to the Crocs store and some New York pizza by the slice.  A performance at my former student HaeSoo and her new hubby Jonathan’s wedding (man I’m getting old if my students are getting married!) took me straight up to the start of my summer festival hopping – first stop, the Crowden Music Center in Berkeley!  My darling groups performed some Mendelssohn and Schubert to be admired, and it was a total privilege to be back alongside my Bay Area colleagues teaching at such a fantastic place.  Next stop, Santa Cruz for my umpteenth PACO Camp, and then concertos by Piazzolla and Jorge Grossman with the Milano Classica chamber orchestra in Tuscany!

And as always, a photo diary…

A trip to our beloved Valley Fair during my week back in MN with Adrian, Ethan, Yi-Ming and Guor-Har =)

Family time…a birthday dinner for Mama Kim, home yoga classes, and saying goodbye to our neighborhood diner Snuffy’s (world’s best malts), closing its doors after opening back in 1982…

A bit teary-eyed, a post-final AQ concert shot backstage at Sundin
Mama Ellen livin’ it up with her first class upgrade en route to her b-day trip in Idaho…
The view from “base camp” at Mt. Schweitzer

A picnic, a family hike up the mountain, and happy hour at the summit, no doubt.

Post-Lake Pend Oreille swim, a white water rafting trip down the Spokane River, and a family portrait on our last night before heading back to our respective real lives…
Performing the Mendelssohn Octet at our Knights Blueshift concert event

Hangin with some lovely little girls, Alma (and her new Crocs) and new friends Hazel and Sammy =)
HaeSoo & Jonathan’s wedding – what a gorgeous family!

My amazing students at Crowden

 

 

Chyunlellabrations, Cornell Commencement, & Tuscan Trails

When the warm waves of spring and summer finally rolled in, the whole Kim clan had convened in beautiful Princeton to celebrate our dear Hae-An Chyun and Steve Colella’s nuptials.  Everything from the Korean bowing ceremony 폐백 to the weather and each detail put in place by the beautiful couple brought joy, grace, and togetherness.

After a giant post-wedding Mother’s Day feast that ended with a first-generation group nap on the floor (picture a mass of happily food coma-ed 30-somethings sprawled on a bamboo floor), it was back to the City for me – the Aizuris and distinguished guests brought to life Michi Wiancko‘s first chamber opera, Murasaki’s Moon at the MET Museum.  Working with OnSite Opera and the three singers Kristen Choi, Martin Bakari and John Noh was something I’ll cherish for years to come.  A brief hang with some NYC friends and then to Minnesota I went to give a super cool recital featuring Steve Heitzeg‘s Lake Stone Moon at the St. Paul Patagonia in honor of their “Save the Boundary Waters” campaign.

It was then up to Cornell for our end-of-year festivities – faculty recognition events, student recitals and graduation.  My honey and I managed something I’ve been dreaming of since the first signs of Ithaca snowmelt were upon us – a hike through Treman Park complete with swimming hole dips and waterfall baths.  And, if that wasn’t beautiful enough, I jumped a flight to Rome to begin my work as Co-Artistic Director of the Paesaggi Musicali Toscani festival in Siena.  A couple of Italian-style work days (I had forgotten the beauty of wine with lunch) later, I found myself visiting old friends and taking in some of the most exquisite food on the planet.  The pillowy ricotta gnocchi at Perillá literally brought quiet, honest tears to my eyes…

For those interested in a compelling read, here’s what I’ve just started to sink my teeth into – written recently by a friend and colleague at Cornell Jamila Michener: Fragmented Democracy: Medicaid, Federalism and Unequal Politics – eye-opening, heartbreaking, and so thoughtfully presented.

And as always, here, a photo diary:

Wedding Time!

The set of Murasaki’s Moon @ The MET

Hanging with dear old friends Suzy, Marta, and Nanae
Meeting, for the first time in person, one of my musical heroes, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich post-concert in NYC

Recital at the St. Paul Patagonia – my first-ever retail store concert =)

Cornell Graduation – Congratulations Class of 2019!
With Nandi, Rafa and Ben at our faculty awards dinner…tenure’s finally in the bag for these two ladies!

Hiking Treman Park – food for the mind, body and soul…

And…TUSCANY…a wise man once said “Good work, if you can get it!”  ‘Nuff said.

Songs & Dances, Stunning Students and Farewell, Takuzosan!

Taking a moment to breathe out on the gorgeous water at the Deleware Water Gap, I looked back on the last month, realizing how deeply complex life can be – and perhaps it is that complexity that gives meaning to each chapter.  And then, a frosty river plunge.  I thought of the far-too-early passing of a dear family friend, Takuzo Ishida – husband, father, chemist, bonsai master, carpenter, long-time CMSM Board member and, just last year, a recipient of the Order of the Rising Sun, one of Japan’s highest honors.  His life was one of kindness, generosity, integrity, excellence, and joy.  With blessings, may you Rest in Peace, Takuzosan.

With Takuzo post-concert in Tokyo, 2017

With the quartet off for the past month, April was wonderful whirlwind of special performance experiences, projects, and teaching.  Now in early May (how did that happen so fast?), we waved goodbye yesterday to the end of the semester here at Cornell, said hello to Slope Day, and ushered in the beginning of summer.

I had the great joy and honor of putting together a program of the Ruth Crawford Seeger sonata, Heifetz’s arrangements of a few Porgy tunes, and then the Dvorak quintet with my dear friend and long-time duo partner, Ieva Jokubaviciute on our most recent CMSM concert.  Her darling daughter and my unofficial goddaughter Alma came long for the tour, and my heart was so full spending time with her.  She even gave us an impromptu concert of her entree into Suzuki Book 2 – life kinda doesn’t get better than that.  Following the CMSM concert I had a chance to do some outreach volunteer visits to two of my favorite Twin Cities elementary schools – Blake and Valley Crossing – such fantastic kiddos!

After Minneapolis it was time to head back to Cornell to prep my annual faculty solo recital, entitled “Song and Dance Come Forth” which featured works for solo violin and viola + 1 written for, inspired by, or adapted from song and dance.  A special tribute to John Harbison, now celebrating his 80th year followed some Bach baroque dances, followed by Brahms’ G Major sonata and some bluegrass tunes – heading back to my childhood roots at fiddle camp in Northern Idaho…

Speaking of those childhood roots at fiddle camp in Sandpoint (a charming town near the Canadian border) where my father taught each summer at Gunther Schuller’s jazz and chamber music festival, I got to dive hard into the rich and inspiring folk music scene in Ithaca at the Friends of Stewart Park benefit concert.  Sharing the stage with local legends in a program curated by Rick Manning – brilliant landscape architect, engaged citizen and bluegrass-er – we fiddled, strummed, plucked, stomped, and sang our way through the night at La Tourelle to fundraise for this fabulous organization.

Then it was off to Florida for a quick getaway to celebrate my cousin Hae-An’s pre-wedding weekend, a 36-hour trip out to the Bay for the Crowden Music Center‘s benefit and some surprise volunteer work at Castillero Middle, and then back to Cornell for our end-of-year student performances.  My students gave their showcase solo recital on Monday and they blew me away – committed, thoughtful, and commanding performances.  With an unexpected day off, I went down for a moment with my honey, on the Deleware River, and that brings us full circle.

And, as always, a photo diary…

CMSM concert with Ieva and Society artists Papa Kim, Sally Chisholm and Tony Ross

Play time with our dearest Alma…
…and of course, a mid-April Minnesota blizzard…

Volunteering at Valley Crossing Elementary School…
…and the Blake School =)
The gorgeous (and delicious) tenure celebration dinner that my lovely neighbors, Doc & Greg made for me!

This is what happens when one rehearses on Easter at the Mizrahi home: the most epic egg-dying-decorating party ever!

Cousin time in Florida!

Solo recital at the Carriage House Hayloft

Post-show with dear friends Amy, Scott, Patty and Ben and my fabulous collaborators Kerry and Rick

Bluegrass night for Friends of Stewart Park at La Tourelle!
Post-Crowden Music Center Benefit with the Meraki Quartet (good luck at Fischoff tomorrow!)
And a surprise visit to Castillero Middle =)

My students at their end-of-year showcase recital – they so beautifully crushed it.

Taking in a super fun student performance, the Cornell Pan-African Dance and Drum Ensemble year-end concert

Taking a moment to exhale and take in some chill time at the Deleware Water Gap =)
And finally, a heartfelt blessing to Notre Dame – found this old picture of me and friend Miguel in front of the cathedral 15 years ago…

The Knights in Europe, Grammy Time & Hello Spring!

Coming to you post-concert at Bucknell University, a short-and-sweet entry here to share some of the beautiful moments I’ve had the chance to be a part of over the last two months…

February started with a Knights camp bang, with an intensive rehearsal week in Brooklyn, a kick-off concert at Pioneer Works, and then off we went to take on Europe.  Our first stop in Szczecin, Poland was one of my personal highlights (and surprisingly so) from the entire monthlong project.  The concert hall there, Karlowicz Philharmonic Szczecin is one of the most enjoyable spaces – both in terms of physical beauty and acoustics – to play in.  There was a magic that the group was able to find on stage that somehow got sent in a collective, artistic wave, out into the audience.  I had a few deeply spiritual moments thinking of dear Stan “Bear” Skrowaczewski, who passed two years ago, wondering if he ever graced the podium on that stage…

From there it was a crazy 20-hour journey from a Polish Flixbus to the Berlin and Paris airports for a 36-hours-on-the-ground moment in Los Angeles to catch the Grammys.  What an experience it was – something I never imagined being a part of my life, but alas, there we were.  From the excitement at the Premiere Ceremony (that’s the one where the really cool musicians are – it’s in fact too cool for telecast), being surrounded by such incredible artists to walking the red carpet and taking in the juggernaut that is the Grammy Telecast, it was indeed unforgettable.  Perhaps the two best moments of that whirlwind trip however, were 1) family time with my fabulous LA aunties, uncles, cousins and grandparents, and 2) hitting the red carpet with my fabulous parents as my “date” to the event…

After hitting up my favorite soondooboo restaurant on my way back to LAX, it was back to Europe for concerts in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.  Having the chance to play in arguably the two best halls in the world – the Elbphilarmonie in Hamburg and the Musikverein in Vienna was entirely inspiring.  Avi Avital, our brilliant guest mandolinist on tour, brought the house down night after night, and we delighted in programs from Vivaldi, Bach and Beethoven to new works by Thomas Adés, Arvo Pärt, and our very own Colin Jacobsen and Christina Courtin.  After multiple long-haul flights and countless hours on the tour bus, a huge debt of gratitude to Francisco Dasta who came up from Italy to be our on-location masseur!

A long journey back from Munich to Ithaca, I was elated to say hello to my house once again and to be back in my Cornell office with my students (many thanks to my incredible adjuncts who so expertly looked after my studio while I was away!).  Another blizzard or two later, it was down to NYC and out to DC for some Aizuri Quartet concerts (here’s to the incredible vision of the Boulanger Initiative!), and now off to the Intricate Machines tour, organized by the two ultra creative composers Daniel Temkin and Phil Taylor.

And most importantly, my favorite moment of the season – the lake by my house, thawing for the first time in the spring sunlight, the ripples on the surface of the water glistening like aspen leaves in the wind…

Welcome back, springtime =)

And as always, a photo diary:

Avi Avital bringing down the house in Szczecin, Poland

At the Grammy Nominee reception at the Ebell of LA with cousin Yoonie and friend (fellow nominee-engineer) Jesse!

Getting ready at my auntie’s house – how gorgeous are my parents!?

Premiere Ceremony time!

Red Carpet time!  (Karen couldn’t make the trip to LA, so she’s the cute stuffed giraffe in Ayane’s hand =P)
Forces of Nature – 5 incredible ladies taking the stage at the Telecast (Gaga, Jada Pinkett, J Lo, Alicia Keys, and yes, Michelle Obama…)

After Party time! My cousins Eugene and Liberty were my dates, and post-pics with Ayane and Miho and A Far Cry friend Jay Lee =)

Post-Grammy hang with my fam at my favorite soondooboo joint…
Rehearsing in Switzerland…

The insanely beautiful and humbling Elbphilharmonie (and my bro Nathan came over from Sweden to hear our concert!)
Pre-concert at the Musikverien…

A lovely moment at the water front pre-concert with dear friend Alex in Friedrichshafen
THE BUS.
Hanging post-concert with Avi

And Knights friend time pre- and post-last concert in Neumarkt…

Things got a little crazy when we arrived at our hotel at 2am before a 5am departure back to the States…yes, this was all made available to us in the hotel lobby =)
A lovely moment at Simone Dinnerstein’s Neighborhood Classics concert series in Brooklyn, a selfie with “mama” Jane =)
The Aizuris playing the inaugural WoCo launch event for the Boulanger Initiative – huge shout out to Laura Colgate, the initiative’s fearless founder!

Post-AQ concert at Cornell, hosted by Scott MacDonald and the Telluride House (post-show with dear friends Betsy and Jesse Goldberg and Scott, the boss himself!)
SPRINGTIME!

When Truth Prevails, Mountain Music & a Grammy Nom

It’s a relatively quiet morning at the Schiphol Airport – an airport that I have a strange fondness for, it having been where I spent an unexpected but wonderfully adventurous 17-hour layover back in my teenage days – as I sit with the BBC to my right and an espresso machine gurgling to my left.  Another long stretch has passed since I’ve written here, and there is much to share, so I won’t dilly-dally any longer (except to say I’m already dreaming of the Parisian croissant that awaits me in two days time) –

As we navigate through a time in our culture – both at home and abroad – when truth seems optional and so much appears backward, it shines a particularly radiant light when things go right.  As I find myself exiting the most arduous 18-month stretch of my life, I can’t help but feel immense gratitude for the five women who took time out of their busy lives to dive deep and set a maliciously spinning sphere back in orbit.  There is still a long journey ahead as things worth fighting for are never a simple nor brief endeavor, but when things have been wrong for so long, justice – albeit interstitial for now – is powerful.

To the people who have provided the container for me to heal, for those who rebuilt my courage and strength, and the five women – representing all those doing just things in the world – I thank you.  I leave you with these words from our greatest political and cultural leaders that I came across in the past months:

“It is difficult for the common good to prevail against the intense concentration of those who have a special interest, especially if the decisions are made behind locked doors.” – Jimmy Carter

“Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pain to bring it to light.” – George Washington

“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” – RBG

“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels.  Life’s a bitch.  You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” – Maya Angelou

And now, from stunning student recitals at Cornell amidst back-to-back blizzards up in Ithaca to family holiday time in Europe, concerts in Minneapolis and at the Lincoln Center Atrium to quartet tours in Dublin, North Carolina and the mountains of Vermont – and now, a Blueprinting Grammy nomination, I leave you here with a photo diary:

OCTOBER

Taking advantage of our last nice weekend in Ithaca – a ride in my dreamy new car (whose name is now Azi) – up the Cayuga Lake shore to Americana Vineyards with dear friend Amy McCune =)
Post-e concert with the venerated John Harbison, celebrating his 80th year!
Post-CMSM concert birthday party for Papa Kim, here showing off his favorite gift of the annual Bethe House t-shirt =)
Back to U Mich we go! The Aizuris giving a lecture/panel discussion with students and faculty at the U-M School of Music, Theater, and Dance EXCEL Lab

Pre-UMS Concert Series quartet show, taking a moment with dear friends SuPa and Francie Kang, and Megan Rohrer
Blueprinting CD release show @ National Sawdust!  (photo: Jill Steinberg)

CD release show after-party with the whole Aizuri crew (plus composers Paul and Lembit!) and dear Cornell friends Jane & Scott MacDonald and Patty Keller =)
And more Bethe House love with our fearless leader Erica, hubby Jason and little Halloween-ready dino Ira!

NOVEMBER

Scrag Mountain Music Residency! Up into the glorious mountains of Vermont we went for concerts with co-directors Evan Premo and Mary Bonhag, and surrounding ourselves with amazing people and incredible food -thank you, Green Mountain Girls Farm =)
An AQ student composer workshop residency at Ramapo College – post-concert selfie with all of the fabulous student composers and their teacher, Gilad Cohen

An Irish Thanksgiving – workshopping Donnacha Dennehy‘s new chamber opera in Dublin over Thanksgiving weekend…

  

…and a quick overnight stop in Leipzig for a belated Thanksgiving with my two baby bros (Daniel was on an exchange program working in the Leipzig Gewandhaus for the semester) – visited Bach’s tomb, and got great seats to Die Zauberflöte with D playing in the pit!

Annual family concert @ the CMSM – Basil made his on-stage debut…seatbelt and baby-bear chair in all =)
Castillero! One of my favorite annual traditions – volunteering with Scott Krijnen and his blow-you-away public school orchestra students at Castillero Middle School in San Jose, CA
Scott with Trudy and Larry Rankin, who have bestowed upon a cherished Castillero student each year, the use of their late son Corry’s cello =)

Taking a minute to go meet two lovely new creatures born in the Bay, baby Olivia and baby Rafa!
Lincoln Center Atrium show with Ljova and friends!

 

Quartet time back under the metal ear – an intensive recording week @ the Academy of Arts and Letters capturing the chamber music of Ilari Kaila

Indiegogo perk vinyl album shippage command-central (my NYC living room!)…
…and my Chrisma-Diwa-Nukh-Kwanz “tree” =)

Christmastime with the family in Sweden (that’s a giant 1000-piece New Yorker cover art puzzle…’twas quite the feat)…
CRUSHED IT.
And my disastrous Christmas dinner…bought a whole bunch of gorgeous Swedish salmon thinking it was fresh…and ’twas smoked =/
Happy wedding (and awesomely sweaty dance party) to Josh and Maggie!

Men at work…the Kim boys making traditional Korean mandoo for our dduk-gook feast…could I just quit everything so that I can cook/eat all day. everyday?

And a bow to the grandparents and elders to ring in 2019

Holiday time with friends Naomi Krasner, Mary Bolkcom, the Harris family and the Chen-Lou family =)

JANUARY

Basil and I headed out on the open road, yet again…
“Lucky 3/13” – happily reuniting with Juilliard doctoral classmates (Lucky 13, Class of 2020) Ann and Yves at the 2019 CMA Conference!

BLIZZARD TIME UPSTATE! That’s my backyard in Ithaca…

…so I ran away to the beach for the weekend =P
Back on the road – an extended weekend in North Carolina, AQ master class in Wilmington

Back to Cornell for student recitals (congrtaulations, Emily, Adeline and Julie!) and Bethe House Dinner hangin’ with cutie pie baby Seth =)

AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST…

…partying at the New York City Grammy Nominee Reception!  (Yeah, that’s a practice red carpet…)

Next up is a European tour with The Knights with a crazy (but of course I had to) jaunt to LA for the Grammys – Poland, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland – highlights will surely include concerts at the Vienna Musikverein and Hamburg Elbphilharmonie…

Happy 2019!

Beauty on the New York Subway

It has now been many months since I’ve had the wherewithal to make a new post to share with all of you – my apologies.  The last 10 months have been perhaps the most difficult time of my life, and I have searched for moments that bring a glimpse of light into a sphere of darkness.  I have discovered that when you find yourself surrounded by people who send out anger, immorality and dishonesty toward you in one realm, the universe sometimes sends out grace, compassion, and truth in another:

Several months ago, in a moment of overwhelming confusion and devastation, I had to board the C train at 72nd Street to head back uptown.  I somehow had lost my ability to maintain composure in public and when tears began streaming down my cheeks, I sheepishly tucked myself into the corner of the subway train, hoping not to draw attention nor disturb other peoples’ commutes.  I was silent in my tears, but nonetheless several people began to notice.  My embarrassment grew larger than life, and short of getting off the train at a random stop or pulling the emergency cord only to prolong my journey home, I stayed on the train, wishing I could become invisible.

As New Yorkers feel the squeeze of the increasingly dysfunctional MTA, busy rush-hour commutes and crowded trains, one would expect a moment like this to bring annoyance or at least apathy.  Instead, a kind woman – a perfect stranger – came up to me and said “Baby, you alright?  It’s gonna be just fine, darlin – whatever it is.”  She gave me a huge hug, and sat back down.  At the next stop, a gentleman dressed in medical scrubs came over and said “Miss, are you ok?  Is there anything I can do for you?”  When I replied “No, thank you – I’m ok,” he replied, “Alright, and if you change your mind, I’ll be sitting right here.”  And as we pulled into my station, an elderly woman stood next to me as I faced the doors waiting for them to open and she said “You know what you should do?  Go home, take a deep breath, light a candle and say a prayer.  Whatever this is it’ll be better tomorrow.”  Then she hugged me too.

Three perfect strangers on a busy, packed New York subway…not in my wildest dreams would I have expected a moment like this.  And in one 20-minute ride, there was suddenly light coming through my darkness, and I saw true goodness, and beauty on the New York subway.  It reminded me of a passage from a gorgeous poem written by the enthralling Denice Frohman, with whom my quartet and I collaborated with at the MET a few months ago:

…the conductor interrupts, he’s sorry for the delay
but we’re riding too close to the next train;
a woman reaching for the pole
accidentally grabs my hand,
& in another world we would laugh & be lovers
& dance on the Q train,
to a power ballad or a bolero…

Perhaps this will be our evolved future =)

Thank you, Denice.

And with story time concluded, I owe you all 7 months of recaps, professional goings-on, tour photos, and memorable moments – I’ll keep my words brief and let the photos do the talking.

FEBRUARY

My first recital of the Spring Semester back at Cornell – Schubert with the incomparable Malcolm Bilson
My amazing parents came out to Ithaca for the Cornell concert and we did an icy hike at Buttermilk Falls =)
Recording our next Knights album with the phenomenal San Francisco Girls Chorus!
Me and my Aizuri sisters at our third MET Museum concert with shakuhachi player Ko Umezaki and composer Paul Wiancko

MARCH

Meeting my dearest new “nephew” Seth Goldberg – that’s him with big brothers Sandy and Evan =)
Judged the Hudson Valley Philharmonic Competition – and we chose THREE first-prize winners – the first time in history that there was a 3-way tie – congrats, Max, Cherry and Ania!
Playing on PBS Almanac with the fabulous Anthony McGill!
Post-CMSM concert with Anthony McGill, Tony Ross, and Papa Kim
The Aizuris with Denice Frohman at the MET Cloisters for our penultimate residency concert – Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ   
Post-concert pic chatting with Denice about her stunning poetry and spoken word performance

APRIL

During Cornell’s Spring Break, returning to Italy for the European premiere of the documentary about my refugee project, Le storie di vita nel legno – a beautfiul panel discussion with the refugees and all the volunteers of Cooperativa Selene…

All of the volunteers, local representatives, and refugees following our community round-table discussion =)

Visiting old friends in Cremona and Bolgona!

After Italy, I made a trip to Sweden to play a small recital and visit my brother Nathan!
Post-concert at the Caramoor Festival with the AIzuris and our dear friend and colleague Caroline Shaw

Playing my Spring Faculty Recital at Cornell with long-time friend, colleague and stunning pianist Ieva Jokubaviciute
And a post-recital hike at Toughannock Falls with Ieva and her darling daughter Alma!

A trip to Lakeland, FL to attend a silent retreat that involved Sandplay Therapy and meditation exercises – truly soul-nourishing and powerful…
Saying hello to an old friend, dear Corry Rankin who passed during our time in college together back in 2002…

MAY

MAY IS FOR M-PRIZE!!!

We were honored, shocked, humbled and incredibly proud to be named the Grand Prize Winners of the crazy cool and prestigious 2018 M-Prize at the University of Michigan…post-Gala Concert with Matt Albert and Jay Treuting

Performing with the quartet on the Evermay Series in Washington, D.C.

Congratulations Class of 2018! Cornell graduation pics with students and wonderful colleague Shorna Allred =)
An end-of-year party with friends Nell, Peter and Amy to celebrate over Thai food…

Studio Party! A huge Korean BBQ feast that I hosted at my home for all of my students to thank them for their incredible work and support all year…
Mama and Papa Kim came out to Ithaca once more to hear my students’ Spring 2018 solo recital (which was STUNNING!) – post concert pic below =)

JUNE

A Twin Cities debut for the Aizuri Quartet! Pre-concert Korean dinner and post-concert pic with board members and friends =). Check out our Minneapolis Star Tribune review!
On my way back from China I made a quick stop in Seoul, Korea to visit my cousin Seung-An…we’re face-deep in nengmyun =)
A weekend of pure joy and happiness taking care of my dearest “goddaughter” Alma – a Central Park picnic with new “sister” Maya!

JULY

Fourth of July with my fantastic family out in Princeton, NJ
Happy Hour at the JFK Delta SkyClub with mama and papa pre-flight to Cali!
Post-concert with friends and students at the Crowded Music Center Summer Chamber Music Workshop – teaching and performing here is truly wonderful.
Adventures in Oakland…the aftermath of the smash-and-grab break-in of my rental car =/

Antenna Cloud Farm with the quartet – thank you Judd and Michi!
Final concert at the Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival in Washington State…
…and my “Basil the Bear music stand” =)
A dinner date and reconnecting time with an old friend Ray Lustig and his sweet daughter, Eva

AUGUST

PACO Camp! My umpteenth year back as a faculty member at the Palo Alto Chamber Music Workshop out in California – my group and their amazing poster for me after our faculty concert…and the staff crew!

And my doppelgänger half a generation removed…sweet Sage from PACO =)
Meeting my dear friends Ben and Ana’s little boy, Julian!

NLCMI 2018! Back at the Northern Lights Chamber Music Institute, up in the glorious Boundary Waters of MN…

And I wrapped up the summer touring season with a tour in Italy with the quartet – concerts here at the Paesaggi Musicali Toscani and Morellino Classica festivals in Tuscany =)

SEPTEMBER

Back to School! Listening to a Cornell Orchestras rehearsal in Bailey Hall…
A dinner party at home with my amazing colleagues from the Cornell Small Group Mentoring Project =)
My updated office wall =)

A very special weekend celebrating the life of Grandmother Twentyman and the MacDonald family – an all-day hike in Treman Park =)
Happy Choosuk – the fall equinox Korean harvest festival =)
Sat next to Bob Costas on my flight from Syracuse to JFK! He was so lovely!

Goodbye to my dearest ’09 5-speed Civic…you were an incredible car and I’ll miss you! Here’s to my last tank of gas (maybe ever!?)…
…and HELLO NEW CAR!! I can hardly believe myself when I’m driving it…

AND – OUR ALBUM JUST DROPPED!!  The Aizuri Quartet debut album, Blueprinting, was released on New Amsterdam Records on Friday!  Check it out on iTunes here and if you would like to donate to our Indiegogo Campaign, do it here!  We’ve got $23,000+ left to go – every dollar helps!

 

 

Farewell Dear Mr. Mann! Blizzards, Bartok & The Metal Ear

There is little I can write here that could possibly do justice to paying tribute to Robert Mann, my teacher, mentor and musical guru during my six years at Juilliard.  Husband, father, grandfather, violinist, teacher, composer, conductor, and venerated founder of the Juilliard String Quartet – he was a truly remarkable creature.  I had the great honor of seeing him and playing for him on two different occasions just days before his passing – once with my quartet and once for the Mann Family’s legendary chamber music concert/holiday party.  As we say goodbye to another musical giant: with deep admiration and gratitude for all I learned from you, Rest In Peace, Bobby – you have left behind a remarkable legacy, and we will do our best to carry your torch onward.

Bobby and Lucy, 12/15/17

December began with a bang, with my quartet’s Music and Isolation program featuring works by composers operating in different types of isolation – geographic, aural, and psychological – at the MET Museum.  To hear the sounds of Carlo Gesualdo and Hildegard von Bingen (arranged by our dear friend Alex Fortes) in Gallery 534 was transportive, and we were excited to get a pretty cool review in the New York Times.  Now it’s off to prepare for the third concert of our residency, this time exploring Japan Across the World (February 23 @ 7pm).  From there it was a 6am flight to Minneapolis to join my dearest camrades in the Twin Cities for a program of Stravinsky chamber music including his incomparable “L’histoire du soldat,” and then back to Cornell to finish out the semester and see my students through a truly exceptional recital.  I’ve rarely been so moved to hear a concert like that – my heart was so full.

Three new strings, two sleeps and one rental car later, I found myself in Philadelphia preparing for a concert with the quartet and Jonathan Biss as part of the Curtis Presents concert series – playing the Dvorak Quintet has never felt so invigorating and fresh.

From there it was off to the West Coast to volunteer with my beloved colleague Scott Krijnen and his ever inspiring orchestra classroom at Castillero Middle School.  Corry’s parents, Larry and Trudy Rankin, were also able to join us again for the third time to participate in our musical goings-on and meet the young boy who now holds Corry’s cello – an honor that falls to the 8th-grade principal cellist each year.  Watching Scott’s energy, demeanor, encouragement and teaching of life knowledge in that orchestra classroom is entirely magical.

Back to New York I went to enjoy a huge snow storm (snow day, baby!) from the coziness of my condo and to prep the recording of five new works that were written for and premiered by the Aizuri Quartet.  I’m happy to say that the album is now officially “in the can.”  From sound sculptures to melodicas, broken bow hairs to the talkback button, video crews to full takes, it was a complicated, exhausting, but wonderful adventure.  A warm thank you to Oktaven Audio and Ryan Streber for their fantastic work on every level.  Stay tuned…the album “drops” on New Amsterdam Records in September!

Unfortunately my entire holiday break was spent decked with some crazy strain of the flu – influenza A2 – knocked me flat and landed me in urgent care followed by 23 hours a day in bed, everyday for 8 solid days…serious bummer.  I suppose an optimist might call that a forced vacation?  The lovely thing, was, I was able to be at home with family and lean on them as I became strong again.  Luckily I had another concert and some master classes to give in the Twin Cities later in the month, so I got to return again in a much healthier state.  The annual family concert of the CMSM was so special: Bartok duos with Papa Kim in honor of Mr. Mann (we even used his old score that he left us the last time he played those in Minneapolis) to a Leopold-and-Wolfgang rivalry and Peter Child’s gorgeous new work, “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” for mixed chamber ensemble and children’s chorus.

After some educational outreach visits at the Blake School, Trinity at River Ridge, and a master class at the Northern Lights School of Violin, we were greeted by another blizzard in Minnesota!  It was my second unexpected but warmly welcomed snow day in just over one month.  Both St. Paul and Minneapolis canceled school for nearly two full days (unheard of when I was a kid back in the day…y’all have gotten soft!).  I managed to sneak out at just the right moment to catch a flight to Boston where I joined A Far Cry for their Guardians of the Groove program – and if I may say so, the group sounded quite groovy.  I had a chance to catch up with some old friends and family from different convergences of life in-between our rehearsals, which was total soul food.  From our last concert I hopped on a couple of puddle-jumpers to find myself back at my office doorstep ready to greet my students and hit the semester running at Cornell.  This coming Friday will be my first concert of the semester on campus – Schubert’s Grand Duo on gut strings tuned down to A=430 with preeminent fortepianist, Malcolm Bilson.

2018, here we come.

As I look back over the last six weeks and realize – on a personal level – how dark things can sometimes be, I was reminded by a dear friend of a beautiful proverb:

Just when the caterpillar
Thought the world was over,
It became a butterfly.

I leave you here, as always, with a little photo diary of my goings-on and shenanigans over the last couple of months.

The Aizuri “Music and Isolation” at the MET Museum’s Gallery 534
Post-recital studio pic – bravi everyone!

Before-and-after Curtis show with Jon Biss!
Chamber music reading party with some of my favorite people out in the Bay =)

Castillero magic…Scott Krijnen with his kiddos, the Rankins and our host, Ms. Vasanji
The Aizuris with Bobby and Lucy, just after we played some Beethoven and Haydn for him

Pre-holiday time with friends (that tree is packed with just as many presents as it was when I was 7)…
NYC Snow Day!

The metal ear…AQ recording week @ Oktaven audio (yep, Ayane is playing a melodica on this record!)
All glam’d up…album cover photo shoot with Shervin Lainez

CMSM concert 1/21 – Bartok duos with Papa Kim and Peter Child’s “Peter Rabbit” with the Edina Children’s Choir
Minnesota blizzard! Snow day #2 =)
Tea with and old friend Josh, who just got engaged!

Visiting dear friends in Boston – Team Gronli-Child and Team Harris in Boston post-AFC concert
With my “Auntie” Naomi Krasner after the Gardner Museum concert in Boston…anyone seen a Rhino?
A beautiful thought, which we need so much more of today.

 

 

Farewell, Dear Ed & Happy Thanksgiving from Tokyo

The Twin Cities bid farewell to a gentle giant on October 22, 2017.  Ed Volker, the owner of our beloved hometown music shop, House of Note, passed peacefully in his daughter’s home surrounded by family and left behind a beautiful legacy of generosity and integrity.  A dear friend and advocate for Minnesota performing arts, Ed will be remembered for his wit, warmth, and always making the little ones who came in for their violin rental sizings smile.  Rest In Peace, Dear Ed!

Brother Daniel and me with Ed Volker just some 10 days before his passing, still hard at work at House of Note.

I sit to write this in the dressing room of Toppan Hall in Tokyo as our quartet tour draws to a close.  Looking back on the last 19 days in Japan – 9 recitals, 1 outreach concert, 2 entirely perfect tour managers, and my 3 quartet sisters – it’s truly something for which to give thanks…

October at Cornell was filled with excited prospective students coming to visit campus.  One of my favorite things is to see the enthusiasm in a young high school senior’s eyes as they begin to contemplate that next huge leap in life, discovering what path would be right for them.  Trial lessons and coaching observations went alongside my usual teaching schedule as my current students continued to amaze; we’re just now 2 weeks from our fall solo recital.

I hopped a flight to Minneapolis for our 2017-18 Chamber Music Society of Minnesota season opener with the incomparable Nobuko Imai.  Playing my first Brahms Op. 111 (albeit totally ill with the flu) was intoxicating – there are few greater works of string chamber music out there.  This concert was particularly special as we got to pull together a surprise for our dear Sally Chisholm, a core member and viola extraordinaire of the CMSM for the past 24 years.  A little birdie told us that she would be celebrating her big 7-0 and unbeknownst to her, Miss Nobuko hand-carried a Japanese piñata from Tokyo (via Amsterdam and Geneva no less), brother Daniel (her former student from UW-Madison) flew in from Boston, and we put together a collection of three of the Twin Cities’ finest violists (Maiya Papach, Becca Albers and Dave Auerbach) who performed a “birthday suite” to honor Miss Sally.

It was then back to Ithaca with weekends in NYC as the quartet prepped for our first of five concerts as the Artists-in-Residence at the Metropolitan Museum.  The title of the performance, “Music and Mayhem” took us on a journey through composers who wrote during or in honor of times of war, political upheaval and cultural oppression.  Sofia Gubaidulina’s fourth quartet, Steve Reich’s Different Trains and Beethoven’s Op. 74 quartet Harp brought us from one side of the globe to the other via three very different time periods in modern history.  It was an unforgettable evening filled with pickup microphones, colored stage lighting coordinated with each bar of the Gubaidulina, quarter tones, super balls, and the mesmerizing power of Beethoven at the peak of his Middle Period.  ‘Twas a total joy to present all of that to a young, enthusiastic audience on one of New York’s finest stages.

After a week of double-up lessons and listening to dozens of auditions back at Cornell, it was off to Japan I went with my Aizuri sisters to embark on our Grand Prix tour.  From Takaoka to Kyushu, Kunisaki to Kumamoto, Osaka to Tottori, Hiroshima to Tsu and then Yokohama and Tokyo, it was a beautiful whirlwind.  One of the most special memories I will carry with me was the outreach concert we gave at Shobara Junior High School in Hiroshima.  The students, dressed so finely in their uniforms, sat with wonderment and great respect as we presented our program.  Their questions were thoughtful, their responses were poignant, and the most beautiful moment came at the conclusion of our presentation when a young girl from the back of the auditorium came up to deliver a thank-you message — delivered first in Japanese and then in perfect English — so that Karen and I wouldn’t be left behind.  It brought tears to all of our eyes.

The hospitality of all of the venues, the Japan Chamber Music Foundation and our two killer tour managers who were literally with us every step of the way – Takusan and Yanagisan – exceeded my wildest expectations of how a tour can be. The generosity and warmth we felt from the audiences, the fabulous food Japan has to offer, and the chance to live and breathe as a quartet 24/7 for nearly 3 weeks was a beautiful combination.  Although the schedule was rather packed (with Japanese-style organization and precision, no less),  we even had time to experience a few moments “off the clock.”  As they say, a picture is worth 1,000 words, so as always, I leave you here with a photo diary from the last 2 months.

On a personal note, the last few weeks have been difficult and mystifying in many ways for me; I’ve come to realize, more than ever, that sometimes there is no better way to overcome a troubled spirit than to lose yourself in great music.  Happy Thanksgiving — signing off from Tokyo…

Surprise, Sally!

Post-CMSM season opener with the crew and Miss Nobuko Imai

Debut Night @ The MET!

Post-MET show hang with friends and family
Our first dinner in Japan! (Are you kidding me!?)

An early morning at the Amaharashi Coast, taking time to be with my thoughts…
Post-concert with JCMF President, Mr. Yoshida, who retired tonight following the conclusion of our tour!
Ayane and her dressing room snack hoarding collection… =P
The Aizuri-mobile!
Yukata time!
Shinkansen time!
Sunset at the Tottori Sand Dunes
Basil (my dearest teddy bear) hanging out with Kuma Bear (the mascot of Kumamoto) at the airport =)
Post-concert with the staff in Kumamoto

Bird’s-eye view of Yokohama from the Cosmic Clock Ferris Wheel
Dinner at Chez Kozasa – Ayane’s family hosted us at their family home in Yokohama!
Farewell reception selfie with our badass tour managers, Takusan (aka T-A-K-U) and Yanagisan (aka Ninja Boss Man) =)

August Festivals, Philly Premieres, and Recitals Under the Tuscan Sun

On this bizarrely warm day here at Cornell (the temperature on campus hit 90 degrees this afternoon!) I take a moment to reflect back on the last two months of  music and life.  At a time when our dear Mother Earth is bursting at the seams bringing so much devastation to our hemisphere, I find myself counting every blessing everyday.  At a time when we are faced with such a barrage of hideous vitriol coming from our White House – albeit rarely shocking anymore – I find myself burrowing even more deeply into my craft.  In this last several weeks, my emotional life has been sustained by family, friends and a lot of Brahms.

Below, a sea of faculty and students who gathered on Cornell’s Arts Quad for a rally in support of inclusive diversity earlier today:

When I last left off, I was about to welcome my parents to New York for a glorious 4 days of staycation.  To celebrate the completion of my tenure file, we took long walks in Central Park, took a mini road trip to visit family Princeton, then to Greenwich Point Park in Connecticut, and then up to Tanglewood to see my kid bro and the BSO in action. I can’t think of a better way to spend a rare 4 days off =).  I then headed back out to the Bay for my 17th year teaching at PACO – a magical place set in the forests of Santa Cruz where we immerse ourselves in the land of teaching and playing chamber music from dusk til dawn.

I touched down at JFK at nearly 1am only to be reminded that the following morning’s alarm would ring at 7am to call me down to 60 Centre Street…yes indeed, jury duty.  By some stroke of luck, I only had to serve 1.5 days and was not called onto a case, and alas I am now in the clear until 2023 (phew!).  After a quick trip up north to prune the garden, sweep the back patio and get a few estimates on driveway paving (it’s always something, right?), I hopped on a flight to Minnesota where I joined the NLCMI team for the 13th year.  Another magical chamber music camp set up in the Boundary Waters, we begin and end the day with condcutorless chamber orchestra rehearsals with hours of Mendelssohn, Bartok, Schoenberg, Haydn, Grazyna Bacewicz, canoeing and s’mores in between.

To the Duluth airport I went to hop a flight or two to join The Knights for our annual performance at the Ravinia Festival.  Joined by the incomparable Susan Graham, we presented a program of Adams, Mozart, and Canteloube.  It was then O’Hare to Rome where I jumped on a few trains to begin a recital tour in Tuscany.  The combination of being back amid the rolling hills of Val d’Orcia making music, drinking divine wines and eating mind-blowingly delicious food was totally sublime.  Through programs of Janacek, Brahms, Ravel, Paganini and Elliott Carter, my pianists (Todd Crow and Pietro Bonfilio) and I danced our way into the halls of Paesaggi Musicali Toscani and Morellino Classica.

From Siena to Ithaca I went to start up the school year at Cornell.  I welcomed my studio of fabulous students back to campus as we hit the ground running with studio meetings, lessons and coachings.  Guest lectures in Elements of Music 1101 and Design & Environmental Analysis 1200 allowed me to meet an entirely new cross-section of students, something by which I am always so inspired.  A return to my favorite thing about Cornell, Wednesday nights at Hans Bethe House, brought hugs, smiles, and so many wonderful friends and colleagues with whom to catch up.

After a quick 36-hour trip to LA for my beautiful cousin Yoonie’s wedding, I headed to Philly for a week to premiere Lembit Beecher’s haunting and brilliant chamber opera (written for the Aizuri Quartet and a small cast of singers), Sophia’s Forest.  Set in the 1990s, the work tells the story of half-forgotten memories and tragedy in the wake of fleeing war-torn Serbo-Croatia; mechanized sound sculptures created by Lembit and a team of engineers from Drexel and Princeton created the soundscape of the haunting forest.  It was an honor to bring this work to life.

Returning to Ithaca to catch one of my favorite satirist-comedians Trevor Noah – and accidentally meeting him in person (hashtag fangirl) – in a live standup show at Cornell was a total dream come true.  And that brings us to the present…I head down to the City tomorrow to start the lead-up for the quartet’s upcoming residency at the MET Museum – Music and Mayhem on October 21st is up first, featuring quartets by Gubaidulina, Reich, and Beethoven!

And as always, I leave you with a photo diary below.

Staycation with the folks!

Visiting with old friends (Mary Bonhag & crew) and catching a BSO rehearsal at Tanglewood…

PACO 2017 – late-night chamber music readings, my adorable quartet, and the best faculty pic ever
Jury Duty…
Meeting my dear friends Cece and Richard Belcher’s new little one, Finn!

NLCMI 2017

Knights lunch break @ Ravinia…nothing like a floor picnic of Korean food!
Post-concert selfie with Susan!

San Quirico d’Orcia, Siena
The greatest plate of fresh vegetables I have ever had in my entire life…
The greatest plate of seafood I’ve ever had in my entire life…

New and old friends on tour in Tuscany – Nicole, Paolo, Brian, the Crows and Director Steve!
And the turtles that live at the bar where we all hung out after concerts…

Action shot…

Final recital on the Morellino Classical Festival with Pietro Bonfilio

The Kim ladies at Yoonie & Derric’s wedding!

Selfie with the sound sculptures on the set of “Sophia’s Forest” in Philly
Opening night cast photo!
Catching an old friend Lev give a house concert up in Ithaca
Trevor Noah @ Cornell!
And one last summer sunset…

YB Music Haul, CU Tenure, CMC Workshop and Everything In-Between!

I must say it was rather anti-climactic: the tenure submission portfolio was completed.  After years of mental and professional preparation and months of writing, editing, vetting and re-writing, my 517-page portfolio was complete!  The four 3-inch binders of programs, press articles and reviews could have served as bench pressing weights, and the written documents on my vision as an artist, philosophies on teaching, advising and volunteerism felt like I was writing a thesis, only the subject was myself (face palm).  When I finally hit the “submit” button for the very last document for the last time, I thought it would have felt more glorious and that perhaps a ticker-tape parade might have spontaneously erupted in the Delta Sky Club where I sat to submit the final docs…but alas, no such luck.  However, I am fortunate to have something even better: a few rare pockets of vacation time to spend with dear friends and family in-between summer touring.  What better way to celebrate?

I last left this blog post shortly after Cornell’s 2017 graduation ceremonies and since then, life has been rich with experiences and full of travels and touring.  From hot and sweaty summer days in New York to epic thunderstorms in New Hampshire, warm morning jogs in D.C., sunshine and ice cream in Virginia, cool daytime hikes and stunning waterfalls in Ithaca to the breezy Berkeley Bay, my suitcase has gotten a fantastic workout this last two months.

As soon as I got back to the City I jumped into one of the coolest touring endeavors ever – Yellow Barn’s Music Haul.  The brainchild of director Seth Knopp, Music Haul is a concert-series-meets-food-truck idea where a converted commercial truck converts into a stage to present mobile concerts to street and park crowds throughout the country.  It was a thrill to be a part of the truck’s maiden voyage to NYC with performances of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, Jay Treuting’s Oblique Music and Robert Mann’s Invocation with other YB alums on the streets of Brooklyn and at Union Square.  The JACK Quartet, Gil Kalish and SO Percussion were just a few of the amazing artists with whom we shared the stage.

Early June brought the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota’s season finale with the great jazz pianist Kenny Werner; I put my rather rusty jazz chops to the test with some of his beautiful original compositions and a couple of old standards.  What a joy it was to explore taking solos and comping with such a legend.  After a crazy cool project with Lembit Beecher in Washington, D.C. preparing his chamber opera Sophia’s Forest which will receive its complete premiere in Philly this coming September, the quartet headed to Avaloch Farm for a 10-day residency of preparations for our exciting season ahead.  On the docket was putting on the burner Beethoven Harp, Steve Reich Different Trains, Gubaidulina’s fourth quartet, Haydn Op. 20/2 alongside admin meetings, calendar discussions, and workshops on keeping our sisterhood healthy and strong.

From there it was back to Ithaca to climb into the rabbit hole of tenure preparation.  My oh-too-giddy reunion with my architect’s rotary paper cutter brought me back to my arts and crafts days, taking out staples of programs and playbills and trimming newspaper clippings for the performance dossier.  After six readers and countless drafts, the personal statement, extended CV and dossier overview documents were ready for submission, and from here on out, it’s just a waiting game while my file climbs the 7 rungs of Ivy evaluation…fingers crossed, I’ll share the news when June 2018 arrives!

A quick celebratory weekend followed with a visit to see my dearest Ieva and her incredible daughter (and my BFF, of course) Alma.  Together with Chris (husband and papa) we packed boxes for their upcoming move, visited their gorgeous community pool, and had a Maryland crab feast!  As I returned to NYC for a night, I repacked my bags for a 2-week tour out to Berkeley where I was teaching and performing at a fantastic festival/workshop at the Crowden Music Center.  Working with the students there is one of the highlights of my year, and director Eugene Sor brings together a collection of esteemed faculty who also happen to be fabulous human beings that it makes for two of the most joyful and rewarding weeks of the season.

With a quick 2-day jaunt to LA in-between our weeks at Crowden to see my aunt, uncle and help with my beautiful cousin Yoonie’s wedding, was made complete with a trip to pay respects to my grandparents.  After the invitations, thank-you cards and address labels were designed and ordered, we feasted together and I jetted back up to Berkeley for Crowden week 2.  After a 3:45am alarm, I hopped on a flight back to JFK, landed to retrieve my car who had been happily long-term parked and worked on a 2-day spackling-and-painting job on all 5 floors of our condo building up here on 149th Street!  It was a sweaty job, but so rewarding!  And, I am now about to embark on a 3-day staycation with my amazing parents…off the grid I go!

I leave you with this photo diary:

Yellow Barn Music Haul!
Dinner party with the great Fred Harris, drummer extraordinaire at the CMSM season finale =)
Visiting with a dear old friend, Ed Volker of House of Note, our violin shop in Minneapolis
Lembit Beecher’s “Sophia’s Forest” preview at Halcyon in D.C.!

Avaloch Farm!

Tenure dossier carnage…
And a much-needed break from the dossier carnage – Treman Park, Ithaca
My dearest Alma!
Farewell to the Jokubaviciute-Zimmerman family in Virginia
My Mendelssohn octet group performing at Crowden

Post-concert at Crowden!

Family time in LA!
I’m bringing sexy back…spackling and painting my condo building in NYC!

Lavender in Provence, Gold in Osaka, + “Red, White & Biden” Ice Cream

On a cool and rainy night here in New York City I write this blog post to share with all the goings-on of my musical world over the last two months.  There is much to catch up on, so without further ado:

I will begin by sharing the lovely news that my quartet and I won the gold medal at the 2017 Osaka International Chamber Music Competition, a triennial affair that brings ensembles from across the globe together on one stage in southern Japan.  As I didn’t grow up in the world of musical competitions or contests, this was a relatively new experience for me, and what a wild ride it was.  We performed four complete programs of quartets by Mozart, Janacek, Berg, Schumann, Akira Nishimura, Paul Wiancko, and Beethoven in their entireties.  Following the fourth and final round, we were elated to be named the winner and closed the tour with two concerts in Osaka and Tokyo.  The staff, logistics, hospitality and organization could not have been more perfect — everything down to our chair and stand height was thought of and taken care of with kindness and ninja-like precision. The contest aside, for me the most moving and important element of our travels to Japan was the fact that we were able to perform for Ayane’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Kozasa, who heard us live for the very first time.

Click here to listen to our live performances!  (For Round 1, we begin at 1:08)

Round 1 – Mozart & Janacek
Medal Ceremony!
Post-Ceremony Party @ Osaka Castle

I’ll rewind to where we left off after my last post, which was just before I embarked on a 3-week tour of New York, France, and Germany with The Knights.  Kicking things off with two concerts in Brooklyn, the band then flew across the pond for chamber music and chamber orchestra performances at festivals in Aix-en-Provence (where the lavender is most famous), Friedrichshafen, Heidelberg, and Hamburg.  From the Schnittke two-violin duo to a Stravinsky quartet to the Reich double violin concerto to the symphonies of Haydn and Mozart, it was a rich and jam-packed trip!

Perhaps the most glorious moment for me was playing the Reich double concerto (with my long-time partner-in-crime Guillaume Pirard) in Heidelberg’s Kongresshaus Stadthalle — one of the most beautiful acoustics I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.  The breathtaking views of Lake Constance in Friedrichshafen, crisp blue skies filled with the fragrance of lavender in Aix, and delicious cheeses in Heidelberg made added sprinkles of joy and beauty throughout the trip.

I returned to Cornell directly from Germany to hit the ground running with rehearsals for the U.S. presentation of my CCA Biennial project from last year’s work in Italy, Le storie di vita nel legno.  The evening featured the performance of two new trios by Can Bilir, the exhibition of the refugee-created mural — which had been shipped from Italy and rebuilt at Cornell — and the premiere of our documentary that we made on the project itself last year in Brescia.  Despite an epic computer disaster that I experienced while on the road in France, I managed to refinish the final edits of the documentary just in time for the debut!  It was so powerful to bring this project full circle; I remain indebted to and inspired by the men of Cooperative Selene with whom I worked to build cultural bridges through the arts during my time in Italy last year.

The very next day brought my annual faculty recital, this year with Italian pianist Pietro Bonfilio.  We presented a program of Steve Heitzeg, Janacek, Kabalevsky and Brahms in the Carriage House Hayloft (my favorite spot to play in Ithaca!) and had a chance to begin plans for our upcoming recital in Tuscany this summer.  How small but fulfilling a world it felt bringing my life and work in Italy back to Cornell.

The moment these projects finished it was time for the end-of-year push with student recitals, grades, and committee meetings.  My fabulous students presented a showcase recital featuring works from Bach to Sinding and Tchaikovsky to Gershwin.  As my students walked off stage, the three other Aizuri ladies arrived in Ithaca, and we began the journey to Japan with rehearsals around my teaching schedule and late-night run-throughs for friends…

I hopped off the plane from Tokyo to greet a group of dear family friends who had arrived in Ithaca to attend their son’s graduation, and we spent the rest of the weekend in commencement mode.  I joined my student, Sarah McDonald for a performance of some Bartok duos at the Department of Music ceremony and stood proudly in the faculty lineup to witness the procession of the Class of 2017 along the Arts Quad of Cornell.  Vice President Joe Biden delivered the 2017 Convocation address and it was, in my opinion, totally fantastic.  He referenced his own college years when the country seemed even more divided and in crisis amidst the Vietnam war, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy.  He warned against fear and encouraged the young graduates to seek action and tolerance.  It was a brilliant combination of topical realism, uplifting optimism, and guiding advice for the future.

And as many know, Mr. Biden loves ice cream, and as Cornell Dairy is famous for its house-made churns, he couldn’t leave campus without the University creating and naming a new flavor after him: “Red, White and Biden.”

I sign off tonight dreaming of the music that I’ll be preparing to perform over the next two days as part of Yellow Barn’s MusicHaul No Boundaries tour, where we YB alums set out to perform concerts in the back of a converted moving truck that parks and sets-up a temporary stage on the streets of New York!

And as always, a photo diary here:

Waiting on our delayed flight from JFK to Nice, serenaded by the one-and-only Guillaume =)
The crisp blue skies of Aix-en-Provence
Gearing up for an outdoor publicity show at the Aix Festival de Paques
Lake Constance, just outside the front entrance of the concert hall in Friedrichshafen, Germany
Dress rehearsal at the Kongresshause Stadthalle in Heidelberg
Power tool time…putting together the new installation for the refugee mural

And the finished product, installed in Klarman Atrium at Cornell

Eating some of the best food in the world in Osaka!
The Aizuri Ladies
Post-ceremony pic!
Together with the winners of the wind & brass division (does this look like a prom photo to anyone else!?)
The Cornell Class of 2017!
Commencement 2017 with my student, Sarah McDonald

Vice President Joe Biden and his “Red White and Biden” ice cream debut!
Post-graduation dinner party at my house with the Yang-Munro crew!

Farewell, Bear!

Last Tuesday we bid farewell to a musical giant. Maestro Stanislaw “Bear” Skrowaczewski was a man, whom for me, represented everything that is sacred, dutiful, and thoughtful about the art of music making.

Not only did he serve 19 years as Music Director of the Minnesota Orchestra and helped to catapult the ensemble to one of the best in the nation, but was a brilliant composer and arranger. He became a mentor and granddad figure for me and my family, someone we could look to for so many of life’s answers. Bear was the definition of integrity, both musical and otherwise, and his spirit will live on for generations to come through his memory and music.

The very last piece that Maestro Stan composed (completed in September 2015) happened to be a duo written for me and my brother, Daniel, to honor my father’s 70th birthday. Daniel and I were honored to present this piece alongside his quintet “For Krystyna” (the piece he wrote to honor his wife at her funeral) at a beautiful memorial service held at Minnesota Orchestra Hall. There were beautiful words spoken by those close to him – among them his biographer Fred Harris – and the service was bookended by Bach’s Air and Bruckner’s Adagio (Maestro Stan had a particular gift and affinity for Bruckner; his recordings of Bruckner symphonies are arguably the most revered in the world) performed by the entire Minnesota Orchestra. It was a true celebration of a life lived to its fullest in every sense. Closing remarks by his two sons, Nicholas and Paul brought the event to a close, signaling only the beginning of his legacy.

Rest In Peace, Bear, We Love You!

Click here to read the Minneapolis Star Tribune article and see the slide show of photos from the event.

The past two months were a whirlwind of wonderment in my musical life! February began with our annual Chamber Music Society of Minnesota Family Concert – a “choose-your-own-adventure” trip down bluegrass lane that brought kindergarteners up on stage to conduct, leading our every move from tempo to dynamics — was followed by Saint-Saens’ iconic “Carnival of the Animals.”  On that concert I also presented the word premiere of Steve Heitzeg’s “Lake Stone Moon,” an incredible piece for solo violin (plus Lake Superior Stone, Boundary Waters driftwood, and Tibetan singing bowl!), which pays tribute to the resistance movement against fracking in the North Woods.  From Minneapolis I headed south to Raleigh-Durham where the quartet dove into an intense but invigorating residency.  Concerts at North Carolina State University and Cat’s Cradle were coupled with master classes at Duke University and the North Carolina Chamber Music Institute and finished off with a trip to a famous Raleigh mainstay, Nana Taco!

From North Carolina the gals and I hopped on a quick Delta flight up to Washington D.C. for our Kenned Center debut!  We presented a program on the Fortas Chamber Music Series of Beethoven, Webern, Caroline Shaw and Mendelssohn; although the acoustics of their studio space while the Terrace Theatre is being renovated are less-than-ideal for string quartet playing, it was a deeply moving experience.  I then headed back to Ithaca to immerse myself in the teaching of my fantastic students at Cornell and then welcomed the Aizuris to campus for our first University residency.  The premiere of Stephen Dankner’s 19th quartet was paired with Mozart and Beethoven, and via residency events, we workshopped our concert repertoire with students and gave a chamber music master class on campus.  It was such a thrill to bring my two musical lives together under one “roof” up in Ithaca.

A quick trip to Flushing for a performance on Marcy Rosen’s Chamber Music Live series at Queens College was followed by a performance at Rutgers University-Camden and a master class with the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society at Temple University brought the calendar to mid-March.  I then headed back up to Ithaca for a beautiful, long stretch of time that included one of the most intense blizzards I’ve ever witnessed (and that’s including my first 17 years in Minnesota!) – Cornell closed for the first time in 24 years – and the 27 inches of snow that fell in my backyard couldn’t go without photos…

After I finally dug myself out of my driveway, the week finished with two recitals, one at Red Newt Winery (a gorgeous finger lakes vineyard that has recently begun hosting a Sunday recital series) and another at Ithaca College on their guest artist recital series.  Susan Waterbury, my twin over at IC arranged the events and then hosted a master class that I gave for her students the following day.  It was a blast to work with such talented, eager and dedicated young violinists.  That week finished with a deeply fulfilling and proud moment for me when I heard my senior music major, Sarah McDonald, give an inspiring and captivating Honors Recital; a few hours later I was on a flight to Memphis where I hooked back up with the quartet for a residency in partnership with the University of Memphis and the Iris Orchestra.  The highlight of our experience there was working on the Mendelssohn Octet with three young musicians who are the current Iris Fellows – their talent and dedication combined with their openness and curiosity made for a rich, uplifting experience.

The next morning at 5am I was headed back to the Memphis airport to hop a flight to Minneapolis for Bear’s memorial.  I had the chance to catch a rare Monday in St. Paul to witness the world’s greatest Suzuki teacher (my mom!) in action with her Pre-Twinkle group class – I nearly died from cuteness overload.  As Spring Break began at Cornell on Saturday, I hopped down to the City for the start of a quartet project and was able to enjoy a lovely dinner with the magnificent Scott and Jane MacDonald, old friends and colleagues from upstate!

That brings us full circle!

Until next time…

Post-CMSM Concert dinner with Steve Heitzeg, guest artists Michael and Kyung Kim, and board members
Rehearsing at North Carolina State for the premieres of the Askim and Waschka quartets
Post-NC State performance silly pic with composers Peter Askim and Rodney Waschka

Working with students at the North Carolina Chamber Music Institute and outreach visits at the after-school program KidzNotes!
Cat’s Cradle show on Jen Curtis’ “Overtone” series in Chapel Hill – bluegrass meets Wiancko meets Mendelssohn…
NanaTaco!
Post-show at the Kennedy Center!

Cornell Residency Photos – the amazing ads at Bethe House for our quartet events, and sound-checking at the Carriage House
Storm Stella in Dryden, NY – 27 inches rivals even the biggest Minnesota blizzards of my childhood!

With Rick Manning (my bluegrass fiddlin’ buddy who joined me for some tunes on the recital) and Susan Waterbury post-concert at Ithaca College
The incomparable Mama Ellen Kim working her Suzuki magic with her little ones, Pre-Twinkle style…
Dinner party with the MacDonalds at their new amazing pad in Brooklyn…

 

Love from Scrag Mountain Music

What a treat it has been to be in the snow-covered mountains of Vermont performing with the quartet at Scrag Mountain Music.  Our hosts and co-artistic directors, Evan Premo and Mary Bonhag are not only exquisite musicians, but warm-hearted, generous, and uplifting people.  They have created a community-supported festival concert series that brings musicians from around the world to present concerts in the Central Vermont region; their tagline of “Come as you are, pay what you can” is such a beautiful concept – I thank Evan and Mary for their beautiful vision, and for creating a space where anyone, no matter their means, can attend these performances.

Our first concert at the Green Mountain Girls’ Farm was unforgettable.  Held on a sustainable farm run by two incredible women Laura Olsen and Mari Omland – who treated us to a delectable home-cooked farm dinner before the concert – the series opened with a program of Dowland, Golijov, Janacek and Schubert (the cello quintet with Evan Premo playing cello II on double bass!).  It seemed only natural that post-concert festivities included hanging out with their two 500-pound pigs, 20+ hens, and the fabulous farm dog, Uno.  I’ll drive back to Ithaca tomorrow with a trunk full of farm eggs, root veggies, and their famous heirloom tomato salsa!

I also am embarrassed to say that I missed the December installment of this blog, so I’m playing a bit of catchup – December and January have been stuffed full of incredibly special events and moments; in a way it feels as this has been the most emotionally-packed seven weeks I’ve experienced in a great while.  Highlighted by the events over the last 48 hours on our continent that have bred and inspired fear, hatred, and heartbreak, I feel as though I’ve been pulled into a vortex of disbelief, pain, and helplessness.  Although challenging, I try continuously to remind myself of the beauty that still exists in so many places, and to use music as a vehicle for human connection, expression, and healing.

December began with the third CMSM show with guest clarinetist Charlie Neidich.  I was introduced to Hindemith’s Quartet for violin, cello, clarinet and piano which was a delight to learn and perform; the program closed with Brahms’ divine clarinet quintet.  From Minneapolis I dove back into quartet land as we did our first Aizuri “self-present” with a winter solstice concert at the Spring Street Loft in a tasting menu program of selections from Mendelssohn’s Op. 13 quartet, Paul Wiancko’s Lift, Caroline Shaw’s Blueprint and concluding with Beethoven’s complete Op. 130 plus the Grosse Fuga.  

The next day I had the honor of joining a group of deeply inspiring musicians and people for an evening of Mozart, Schubert, and wonderful food at Robert and Lucy Mann’s legendary December 23rd gathering.  To see Bobby’s glowing, radiant face and Lucy’s glorious energy gave us all such jubilation as we played and ate our way through the evening.  Catching glimpses of both of their faces as they held hands and leaned their cheeks gently against each other during the slow movement of the Schubert cello quintet is something I will carry with me forever.  It was an honor and privilege to be in such a space.

I then hopped back over to Minnesota to spend the holidays with my family.  In fact, all five of us were back together to spend Christmas at our house, just like old times.  We took a little ski “staycation” as a nostalgic nod to our old road trips that featured hotel-room ramen dinners and late-night swimming!  Baby bro Daniel and I took a day to do some outreach at the Blake School in Edina, where we presented interactive performances for the adorable and beautifully engaged five- and six-year-old scholars at Blake (“Who wants to be the train conductor next!?”).

January began with a trip over the pond back to Italy to finish work on the documentary that was made about Le storie di vita nel legno, the refugee project I was working on for my seven-month stay last year (see video clip below).  It was even more special than I had anticipated to be back with old friends and “family” in Manerbio and Bologna.  Work on the documentary is nearly coming to a conclusion; the fully edited version will be premiered at Cornell in April alongside a performance featuring the U.S. premiere of the trios that were commissioned for the project.

Before arriving at Scrag, there was a 27-hour journey that began in a rental car in Bologna, and continued with flights from MXP-JFK-SFO and ended in a rental car in San Jose!  I went to make my annual visit to Scott Krijnen’s orchestra classroom at Castillero Middle School.  Scott happens to not only be one of the most dedicated, tireless and inspirational educators I’ve ever witnessed, but a fabulous cellist as well.  He won a $20,000 grant for Castillero last summer for having been selected as “Bay Area Teacher of the Year.”  Joining us again were Larry and Trudy Rankin, the parents of Corry Rankin, whose cello now lives, donated, in the home of a deserving Castillero cello student every year.  It gave me great spiritual and musical food to volunteer with these 300+ string players again; we closed the week with a performance of Vivaldi’s Winter (the kids did a ridiculously amazing job!) and Beethoven’s G major string trio…

And that brings us to Scrag!  I’ll make the late-night drive back to Cornell following our last concert today, where I look forward to hitting the ground running with all of my remarkable students!

With love, thoughts and best wishes to all those that are suffering at the hands of recent decisions made by this 45th Administration and to the families of the most recent attack in Quebec City, QC…

Pre-AQ Winter Solstice show @ Spring Street Loft
Pre-Aizuri Quartet Winter Solstice show @ Spring Street Loft
After our first Op. 130 + Grosse Fuga...the "maiden voyage!"
After our first Op. 130 + Grosse Fuga…the “maiden voyage!”
Post-AQ concert reception
Post-AQ concert reception
The legendary December 23rd gathering, Lucy & Bobby Mann
The legendary December 23rd gathering, Lucy & Bobby Mann
With Charlie Neidich, Mark Steinberg, Nicky Mann, Julia Lichten and David Geber post-Mozart and Schubert @ The Manns'
With Charlie Neidich, Mark Steinberg, Nicky Mann, Julia Lichten and David Geber post-Mozart and Schubert @ The Manns’
Kim Kids Ski Staycation!
Kim Kids Ski Staycation!
Christmas Morning 2016
Christmas Morning 2016
CMSM Next outreach visit with bro Daniel @ The Blake School
CMSM Next outreach visit with bro Daniel @ The Blake School

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Visiting old friends from the immigration non-profit, Cooperativa Selene in Italy
Visiting old friends from the immigration non-profit, Cooperativa Selene in Italy
Homemade lasagne by one of my Italian "mamas," Giusy Barbieri =)
Homemade lasagne by one of my Italian “mamas,” Giusy Barbieri =)
The famed and mouth-watering tortelloni @ Serghei's in Bologna!
The famed and mouth-watering butter-and-sage tortelloni @ Serghei’s in Bologna!
Volunteering @ Castillero Middle in San Jose
Volunteering @ Castillero Middle in San Jose
With Scott and the Rankins
With Scott and the Rankins @ Castillero
With Scott and Paige Steffler, the holder of Corry's cello
With Scott and Paige Steffler, the 16-17 holder of Corry Rankin’s cello
The view from our Scrag Mountain rehearsal headquarters =)
The view from our Scrag Mountain rehearsal headquarters =)
Pre-concert dinner @ Green Mountain Girls' Farm!
Pre-concert dinner @ Green Mountain Girls’ Farm!
Chicken coup @ Green Mountain Girls' Farm...post-concert party with the hens!
Chicken coup @ Green Mountain Girls’ Farm…post-concert party with the hens!
Uno!
Uno!
After our final concert @ Scrag with Evan & Mary
After our final concert @ Scrag with Evan Premo & Mary Bonhag

Love Trumps Hate

It has now been more than a week since our nation awoke to the 2016 presidential election results.  As a woman, an artist, an educator, the daughter of an immigrant, and an American, I spent much of the following days in a state of heartbroken shock trying to come to grips with the reality of the monster we somehow elected to our highest office.

As my emotions rollercoastered and I was left with the feeling of hopelessness — particularly as I looked at my class of young, talented students at Cornell, many of whom were eligible to vote for the very first time — I wondered if we will ever be able to overcome the pain of a divided nation.  It was in that moment that I received a notice from Cornell’s president announcing a student-organized walk-out protest that would be taking place on campus.

I excused all of my students who wished to attend, and in fact went to the rally myself.  I was so deeply moved when I saw the sea of students who had come out in droves to exercise their right to organize and protest.  I was perhaps even more moved when the chants of outrage – and yes, we should be outraged – turned into chants of “Love Trumps Hate.”  I had not yet thought about our state of the union in a positive light, one that preaches love, until that moment.  I joined with admiration for our students as they helped me look forward to the possibility — nay, the necessity — that Love will Trump Hate.

Today, I sat down to write this post about all that has gone on in my rich life over the last 6 weeks through a sense of love, beauty, grace, and positivity.  As we grieve and attempt to come together as a people, we also must hold onto the splendid things that still exist for us and bring varied worlds together.  I felt blessed to look back and realize how much love had actually filled my life as of late.

I made a quick journey to Boston to hear and see my ultra talented kid brother Daniel‘s first performance as a new member of the Boston Symphony — a semi-staged Der Rosenkavalier — with the glorious Renee Fleming, Susan Graham, and Franz Hawlata singing the title roles.  The BSO and the entire cast sounded inspired, fresh, and brilliant.  The stage, the plot, and the hall were filled with love.

I then zipped to Minneapolis for the season opener with the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota with the incomparable Leon Fleisher.  Spending time with Mr. Leon and his wonderful wife and duo partner, Ms. Katherine Jacobson, is always inspiring and to make music together is entirely profound.  To be on stage performing one of the great warhorses of the literature — Brahms’ F minor piano quintet — with Mr. Leon along with my father Young-Nam and dear colleagues Sally Chisholm and Mina Smith was transporting.  And yes, filled with love.

After a busy week of quartet rehearsals as we prep for the next part of our season, I took a long weekend to head to Korea for my cousin’s wedding!  It was a crazy fast voyage (36 hours in-transit, 48 hours on the ground in Seoul!), but I was so incredibly grateful to have been there with our entire family.  The wedding day, family reunion, and time together were, of course, filled with love.

My travels then took me to beautiful San Diego State University where I was a guest artist at the Campanile Festival organized by the marvelous and talented Pei-Chun Tsai.  It was a fantastic week filled with rehearsals, side-by-side readings with students, master classes, Q & A sessions, and a festival concert.  The students were so engaged and eager, our rehearsals were great fun and inspirational (we even took an evening off to watch the Cubs win the World Series!) and I never complain about 75-and-sunny in November!  The week, in nearly every aspect, was yes, filled with love.

My return to Cornell brought an Ensemble X concert which featured Hans Abrahmson’s Schnee.  My studio and I are now happily in a whirlwind of rehearsals and studio classes as we prepare for our big solo recital coming up on Monday.  I heard many of them play an exceptional Mahler 6 last night as members of the Cornell Symphony Orchestra and I left the hall with smiles and cheers in my mind.  Another reminder that yes, our world can be filled with love.

As we prepare for Thanksgiving and remind ourselves of all that we do have to be grateful for, I leave you here with this post’s photo diary…

Daniel's first performance with the BSO
Daniel’s first performance with the BSO
Post-concert with the Fleishers, Sally, Mina and my dad
Post-concert with the Fleishers, Sally, Mina and my dad
Two giants -- Stan Skrowaczewski and Leon Fleisher greet each other backstage at the CMSM
Two giants — Stan Skrowaczewski and Leon Fleisher greet each other backstage at the CMSM
Seung-An and Jee-Eun's wedding in Seoul!
Seung-An and Jee-Eun’s wedding in Seoul!
Family Reunion time...
Friends and family reunion time!
Paying respects to our wonderful grandparents...
Paying respects to our wonderful grandparents…
Rehearsing the Prokofiev Duo Sonata with Pei-Chun...
Rehearsing the Prokofiev Duo Sonata with Pei-Chun…
Master Class with SDSU students
Master Class with SDSU students…
Open rehearsal @ SDSU
Open rehearsal @ SDSU, Campanile Festival
Campanile Festival concert with Brian Chen, Andra Padrichelli, and Toni James
Campanile Festival concert with Brian Chen, Andra Padrichelli, and Toni James
Cornell University election rally & protest
The sea of Cornell students at the rally & protest on campus

And finally, this post’s title video clip: “Love Trumps Hate:”

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