The Little Rock 9

It looked just as it did in my 4th grade social studies textbook – only this time in technicolor. That iconic double staircase that gives way to the grand entrance of the historic building – where nine brave young black students made history in 1957 – took my breath away. In late April, I spent an unforgettable week in Little Rock as the resident guest artist of the Chamber Music Little Rock and the Arkansas Symphony – during which I gave a solo recital, played Bartok’s first concerto with the ASO Youth Orchestra, and presented outreach at Little Rock Central High School. As I held the wooden railings on the way down to the music classroom, our hosts explained that the historic building has been entirely preserved from that time in the late 1950s. I couldn’t help but think about the hate and vitriol that accompanied so many walks down those steps for those nine students, and the pride and perseverance they maintained to begin a shift in the landscape of educational equity in this country.

This residency brought a beautiful reconnection with a childhood friend and violin schoolmate, Katherine Williamson, who now directs the chamber music society there. Working with the students there was inspiring – on day one the Bartok concerto seemed like a foreign language to them, a massive undertaking for a group of young musicians – and by the concert, we were dancing together and playing chamber music as if they’d known the piece their whole lives. I feel lucky to be a part of so many wonderful organizations that are, simply put, doing good things for the world.

Rewinding a bit, March got kicked off with a quick girls’ trip weekend in Milan to celebrate the birthday of my dear friend and duo partner, Ieva Jokubaviciute and her little one, my goddaughter, Alma. In 72 hours we managed to tour the Duomo, grab a train out to Genova for a local traditional pesto making class, visit the aquarium, catch an opera – Mozart’s Il Seraglio – at the iconic La Scala, and eat our weight in pizza, pasta, and local seafood. A pretty perfect holiday weekend before diving into an ultra crazy stretch…

Shortly after was another PBS hosting moment for the Minnesota Orchestra, packing up the mural panels that our team in Italy created nearly 7 years ago (which are headed for permanent installation at The Well in Lakeland, FL!), and another immersion week for our Fire & Music Project. That immersion week gave way to a 4-concert tour where we performed in areas in Northstate California that have been affected by catastrophic wildfires. Our filmmaker Rob presented a mini documentary on our work in becoming fire practitioners and working with Indigenous communities, while our poet Silvi wove her words, into a world premiere by our composer Julie Zhu, alongside Schubert’s epic G Major and Beethoven’s fervid “Harp” quartet. In a post-concert chat with the concertgoers, a woman from the audience volunteered “I used to blame fire, but now I won’t.” It was one of the most moving moments of our entire yearlong project.

On my flight back from SFO, I was lucky enough to catch the solar eclipse path of totality from 30,000 feet which is likely to be a once-in-a-lifetime thing. With eclipse glasses in tow, and everyone taking turns to sit on the left side of the plane, we took in the temporary apocalypse-like landscape and descended back to sea level into daytime as the moon left the sun. Then it was back to Cornell for a glorious mess of teaching and a solo recital on campus, and off to Massachusetts for a concert with the Berkshire Chamber Players.

The school year wrapped, and a recital tour in the UK took me to Lancaster and London to perform with guitarist Michael Poll which coincided with a special birthday for my husband-to-be…we stayed the weekend to do all the things that Londoners don’t do (Hello, Big Ben & Kensington Palace!), and catch a Tottenham match. We headed back Stateside to host my annual Korean BBQ picnic party for my students (complete with bounce house obstacle course and yard games galore), then graduation, heading back West for the 40th Anniversary celebration for the Crowden Music Center where I played some Piazzolla with pianist Audrey Vardanega, Washington for dear friend James’ wedding, closing out the CMSM season with our final show of the year in Minnesota, and finally a birthday trip for Mama Kim on Mallorca where Jordan and I tried our hands (and and arms and feet) at deep water soloing…where you free solo climb over the great turquoise ocean. It’s the most miraculous catch system one can ask for.

Back to Minneapolis I went for one more hosting of the PBS broadcast of This Is Minnesota Orchestra and now writing from the conclusion of a Knights tour that took us to Central Park, Ravinia, and Caramoor. I’ll be heading fully offline for a couple of weeks starting tomorrow to marry my unicorn, then I’ll be back at it for the festival hopping life come August.

Admittedly I haven’t had much time to slow down and reflect as of late, so I don’t have many cool things to share besides all of my silly faffing about, but I’ve been rather obsessed with one recipe of late: dubu kimchi (두부김치) – a spectacular homestyle dish that I’ve been playing around with – here’s my take, in case you want a fun summer cooking project:

1 cube firm tofu
3 cups kimchi (a little passed its prime is good)
4 cups mushrooms* (I love a combo of shiitake and maitake)
2 Tb canola or vegetable oil
2 tsp each of sugar, ginger, minced garlic, salt, and rice vinegar
2 Tb sesame oil
1 tsp black sesame seeds

1. Bring a pot of water big enough for the cube of tofu to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and add a healthy sprinkle of salt. Put the cube in and let it hang out for 10 minutes or so.

2. Bring a drizzle of the canola oil to a medium-high heat in a sautée pan, and fry up the mushrooms with 1 tsp each of the gear in line 5, and then do the same with the kimchi. I do them separately, and then mix them together after they’re both done.

3. Remove the tofu cube from the simmering salted water, let cool slightly, and then slice into 1/2-inch squares. Arrange them on a platter, and spoon the delicious kimchi/mushroom mixture on top, adorn with black sesame seeds.

* This dish is typically made with pork, so you can definitely go that route, but I made up this veggie version – choose your own adventure!

And as always, a photo diary…

Italy time with the gals!
This Is Minnesota Orchestra PBS broadcast hosting time…
Meeting with Indigenous and fire practition leaders at “fire school” during our final Fire & Music immersion…
The path of totality from 30,000 =)
Berkshire Chamber Players show at the Stockbridge Library
Outreach time, rehearsal time, and museum time at the Little Rock residency…
UK recital tour time + JB’s bday!
Cornell graduation + studio party…bounce house included =)
Pre-and-post glacial lake jump, post-show with bro Daniel, packing up the mural panels for a long drive down to Florida courtesy of Larry & Mike, and James’ wedding + catching up with old friends, the Davies!
Piazzolla time at the Crowden 40th Anniversary show!
The deep water soloing adventure freeze-frame and happy bday, Mama Kim
Knights tour time, and that’s a wrap!

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