Restoring Classical Music in the New Millennium – Part 3

Recap of Parts 1 & 2:

PART 1: The first installment of the “Restoring Classical Music in the New Millennium” series placed the spotlight on a couple of young and talented classical musicians.  At the same time, it helped demonstrate the charitable nature that is characteristic of the Millennial generation as a whole.  Illustrating young talent and their attention to benefiting the greater good, I shared the stories of two amazing Millennial classical musicians: Jourdan Urbach, a 21 year-old violinist and philanthropist, and Nicola Benedetti, a lovely 25-year-old violinist with a passion for music education.

PART 2: The second installment highlighted Nadia Sirota, a 30 year-old violia player with a flair of hip hop, and Gustavo Dudamel, the 32-year-old “Dude” of the LA Phil, brandishing his conductor’s baton. Together they symbolize the fire, spirit, and ingenuity of the Millennial generation.  Although they come from very different backgrounds, they align on the international stage as performing artists trying to make a positive difference in the world through the amazing power of music.

As for PART 3 of this series, we explore the backgrounds and accomplishments of an extraordinarily hip pianist and a tremendous violinist with a rather quirky sense of humor. Let’s begin our third round with pop icon and internationally acclaimed concert pianist, Lang Lang.lang-lang-2
Lang Lang exemplifies the hope, wonder, and excitement of achieving the American Dream. Since a young age, Lang Lang has impacted others through his piano performance. Now, at the age of 31, Lang Lang has become a globally recognized classical music ambassador and icon for the next generation of concertgoers and performers with his own new-age flair.

A Piano Prodigy
Lang Lang’s journey began in Shenyang, China, his hometown.[1] He began studying the piano at the age of three, played his first public performance at the age of five, and has since progressed with only extraordinary outcomes.[2] From conservatories to competitions and piano performances, Lang Lang has made a name for himself in the new world of classical music.Lang_Time

He joined the Beijing’s Central Music Conservatory at the age of nine, and by the time he was 13, Lang Lang had become an international sensation.[3] After winning the renowned Tchaikovsky International Young Musicians’ Competition,[4] he set off for America to study at one of the world’s greatest classical music conservatories – the Curtis Institute of Music.[5] Like something out of a movie, Lang Lang performed a Tchaikovksy concerto in place of world-famous pianist, André Watts, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.[6] Thus, at the ripe old age of 17, Lang Lang the classical music superstar was born.

The Hottest Artist in Classical Music
The New York Times has proclaimed Lang Lang to be one of the “hottest stars in classical music.”[7] Not only is Lang Lang young and extremely talented, he also has a fashion-forward sense of style and seemingly endless amount of energy that, in my opinion, has helped to rejuvenate classical music performance and Millennial interest in this important art-form.Lang_adidas

Classical music meets pop-culture with Lang Lang at the keyboard. In 2009, he released his limited edition black and gold, piano theme Adidas Gazelles. From major sporting events and open-air concerts, to Hollywood films, dub-step and social media inspired collaborations, and the Lang Lang International Music Foundation, Lang Lang is engaging listeners and performers in new ways. He actively expands the musical horizons of those young and old and has proven himself to be a new-age master of classical music performance and an inspiration to the next generation of musical artists. (Stay tuned for Hilary Hanh, soon to follow in Part 3!)lang-lang-spotlight

Age: 31

Nationality: Chinese
Instrument: Piano

Claim to Fame: Piano prodigy and internationally recognized classical musician; Lang Lang International Music Foundation

Facebook: 113,789 likes – Lang Lang Piano
Twitter: 44,193 Followers – @lang_lang

[2] ibid.
[3] ibid.
[4] ibid.

Full Series: Restoring Classical Music in the New Millenium – Millennial Magazine


Gateway to the West

For those of you who know me, or already follow my blog, you may have noticed my hiatus from publishing new posts.  A lot has happened in my life over the past 5 months, and now that I’ve settled in to my new life, I’d like to get back to one of my favorite hobbies – writing about cultural experiences and the performing arts!

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This past May, I graduated from American University in Washington, DC, with my master’s degree in Arts Management.  In early July, after many months of careful consideration, I received a call notifying me that I got my top choice, dream job.

I nailed down an apartment rental in what was to become my new home and career location in the arts.  Before I knew it, my cross-country journey to Colorado Springs, CO had begun.  Starting in my hometown of Wilmington, NC, I drove for 28 hours over 4 days to Boulder, Colorado (just outside of Denver) where my older brother lives.  From there I headed into Colorado Springs and jumped into Project Coordinator training.  My boyfriend and I up-rooted from North Carolina, making this journey out West together.  Of course, we had to stop and see a few sights along the way.


For the first night of the trip, we stayed over in Nashville, Tennessee.  Most of the second day was spent exploring the Country Music Hall of Fame.  We learned about the roots of country music, some of the instruments played and how they evolved, and many of the stars who made music history and shaped American tradition.  I saw the beginnings of the country music industry evolve through radio, recordings, and other technological and stylistic innovations.

Our next stop was St. Louis, Missouri.  Here, we visited the famous “Gateway Arch,” a 630-ft. architectural marvel symbolizing the ‘Gateway to the West’ (how perfect, right?).  We quickly reserved tickets to make our way to the top of the arch.  Despite the enormous summer crowd waiting to get in, we managed to make our reservation and get a view of the city from hundreds of feet above.  Queuing behind doors 2 and 3, we were finally allowed to enter the family-sized pods, in which we trollied to the top.  The view from the top was amazing.  We could see the famous Old St. Louis Courthouse, the St. Louis Cardinals baseball stadium, and the amazingly large shadow of the arch stretching across the bright green lawn below.

On the third day of the trip, we made it to Junction City, Kansas.  We wanted to stop in Kansas City, Missouri – “one of the most popular ‘cradles of jazz’” – but we still had a long way to go, so we kept driving.  Throughout the state of Kansas, we passed fields of large and whirling windmills.  The enormous turbines rotated ominously, with the tips of the blades emerging through the thinning haze.  The dreariness of the cloudy fields was briefly enlivened by the possibility of seeing the “world’s largest prairie dog,” an 8,000lb prairie dog made of reinforced concrete, mind you…

The fourth and final day of our cross-country road trip arrived and we were welcomed by the beautiful, Rocky Mountains of Colorado.   Because we took several days to drive, crossing a distance of approximately 1,800 miles, we had adjusted to the 2 hour time difference – from Eastern Daylight Time to Mountain – more gradually.  Within a couple of days, I arrived for my training and first day of work.

In my new position, I am contributing to an organization that I’ve admired for some time now.  My knowledge and skills will be put to the test, as I continue to learn, grow, and develop my professional knowledge.  It is so fulfilling to know that my work contributes to a wonderful company, ultimately helping arts organizations across the nation to thrive.

I’m living my dream by helping artists and working with other arts managers whose mission is to advance the performing arts industry.  Cheers to new frontiers, and the new 2013-14 season!

Based on my original post on GenYHub:

Then and Now: Millennial Lessons from a Performing Arts Veteran – the Smithsonian Impresario

In a recent event hosted by the Smithsonian Associates, I was given a glimpse into the changing landscape and historic events of the performing arts in DC.  It was the first day of November and I had the opportunity to hear from a veteran of the field, the acclaimed Smithsonian Impresario, Mr. James Morris – although he seemed to prefer to go by “Jim”.  The event was moderated by Dwight Bower, the curator of entertainment history at the National Museum of American History.  I was one of the few Millennials in the audience, but I was eager to learn and to get involved.  Scribbling furiously on my steno notepad, I tried to capture the evolution of topics and statements made during Mr. Morris’ discussion.  I will do my best to accurately reconstruct the memories and experiences shared at this event.

Jim began by reflecting on his life and work in the performing arts.  He highlighted some of the many roles he has had in and around the arts, ranging from politics, to theatre, music, and television.  Although he initially built his career as a performer in entertainment and the arts, after a while – and with the addition of his wife and a three-year-old child at the time – he decided to apply his creative energies to a more administrative role.  Bowers addressed this transitional stage, asking Jim to describe how he first got involved with the Smithsonian Institution.

He was referred to Secretary S. Dillon Ripley through a connection made at a trade fair.  He contacted Sec. Ripley by phone to discuss his interest in developing the performing arts at the Smithsonian and was invited for a job interview shortly after.  Jim met Sec. Ripley at the Smithsonian Castle, but much to his surprise, the interview ended up taking place in Sec. “Ripley’s automobile” — after all, Sec. Ripley was a busy man and needed to get things done.  Jim was disarmed by the conversational tone of the interview that unfolded.  In fact, it turned out that it was hardly an intense interview at all, it felt more like “chit chat.”  Not knowing what to make of his interaction with Sec. Ripley, Jim left uncertain of his chances.  Later that evening, the phone rang at his home.  It was Sec. Ripley and he was offering him the job.  Jim was hired as director of Museum Services in 1966 and appointed to director of the Smithsonian’s new Division of Performing Arts in the following year.

The decision to hire a director of Museum Services was not one that was warmly received among the other curators at the Smithsonian. Jim somewhat jokingly recalled, “I felt like a wild animal that had been set loose in their environment.”  Eventually, a member of the board stuck up for him and said, “Management hired him to enhance what we do here,” encouraging others to let him do what he was hired to do.  His impact on the Smithsonian Institution from that point forward was truly revolutionary. As the new Director of the Division of Performing Arts, he got involved in and accomplished many things at the Smithsonian. He became the founder of the highly anticipated, annual Folklife Festival, helped initiate the American College Theater Festival with Kennedy Center’s Dept of Education (with hopes of linking it to the Smithsonian), and established the Smithsonian Collection of Recordings, among other notable achievements.

He was particularly interested in regional, or state, culture.  “Bit by bit” the Folklife Festival came together, making its official debut in 1967.  The festival went for four days and drew what turned out to be the most attended event in Smithsonian history to date.  Despite the prevalence of “high art” in America, Jim took interest in “popular culture,” which was the “orphan of the cultural world” at the time.  After a while, he said, “people came to realize the importance of pop music, musical theatre, etc. in tradition.”

He vehemently pursued his interest in jazz, working to incorporate this truly American genre into the musical and educational offerings of the Smithsonian.  His desire to include a genre of music dominated by African-American artists, however, was faced with great resistance – during a time when racial tensions remained high in America – but he never backed down.  Jim eventually decided that he needed to create a product and a plan.  Jim raised money for the project himself and came to his supervisors with a plan.  The project was reluctantly approved, allowing only 500 recordings of jazz to be made.  Public response was enormous, proving to be a tremendously popular endeavor.  Jim had packaged the orders by hand at first, but the level of sophistication in operations grew to accommodate the demand for the “milestone Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz of 1973.”


Millennials are experiencing a great deal of change due to the evolution of technology and influence of a rather volatile economy.  Job seekers in the 21st century can no longer wait to be approached by someone with a job, we must show our passion, enthusiasm, and desire, just as Jim did and continued to do throughout his career.  Technology can and should be used strategically in the arts, allowing arts managers and artists to better demonstrate the value of their work, to build connections, and realize the impact of the arts on the well-being of the community.

I highlight the nature the Millennial generation in recent posts, as well as their apparent role in nonprofit fundraising for the arts. The TweetChat #MillennialDonorsAU revealed these compelling themes – Millennials are eager and underrepresented.  Millennials are having an impact and it would be unfortunate and unwise for nonprofits to ignore the creative, technological, enthusiastic energies of this empowered generation.

You may be wondering, what does the Smithsonian Impresario have to do with Millennials?

As an emerging arts leader and Millennial in DC, I am inspired by the Smithsonian Impresario’s emphasis on cultural inclusion, sense of enthusiasm, and passion for the arts. What are the barriers to Millennial involvement in the arts, not only as donors, but also as audience members and employees?  How can nonprofit organizations take advantage of this enthusiastic generation, clearly eager to get involved and make a difference in others’ lives?  Many arts organizations are faced with aging and declining audiences, affecting their ability to navigate confidently in a difficult economy (symphony orchestras appear to be ubiquitous in this respect, evidenced by the musician strikes, contract negotiations, and leadership resignations littering arts & culture headlines across the country and abroad). How can we begin to shift our mindset and adapt to the demands of society?

In order to make change in the 21st century, I think it is important that we reflect on the past to inform our futures and also work to adjust to and incorporate what is currently going on around us.  Tap into your inner impresario – be creative, be willing to adapt, and always pursue your life’s work with passion!

*You can grab a copy of his new book for all the amazing stories and wisdom of the Smithsonian Impresario.

A Memoire by James Morris

School’s out for Summer!! (Well, almost…)

It is hard to believe, but it’s also a relief, that I have finally reached the last day of classes in my first year of graduate school!  The passage of time during the school year always seems to surprise me, how does it go by so fast and so slowly at the same time??  As I reflect on my first year of graduate school, I am so thankful for the experiences I have had, the people I have met, and the lessons I have learned.

I was born and raised in the south, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it.  With parents from the mid-west (yes, those carbonated and often caffeinated beverages are called pop, not soda) and eastern Europe, who knows what my accent is supposed to sound like….but I digress!  Ultimately, my decision to go to graduate school involved transitioning to life out-of-state, removed from the port-city and its humid and salty sea air.

Nonetheless, graduate school in DC has been more than I could have ever dreamed of.  Every day I am challenged, encouraged, and supported by my professors and peers.  My classmates and I have learned and achieved so much over the past year.  We have visited a variety of performing arts venues in the area, such as the Kennedy Center, Strathmore Performing Arts Center, GALA Theatre, and Woolly Mammoth Theatre.  Leaders in the arts have graciously offered their time to meet with us, teach us, and answer our questions in class.  I have gotten involved in school and with organizations in the community, meeting a variety of interesting people in visual arts, poetry, dance, music, arts education, arts policy, marketing, and more.  I have also tried to take time to learn about the local culture of DC by visiting museums, monuments, sculpture gardens, and the US National Botanical Garden, as well as exploring Georgetown, Dupont Circle, and the well-known bookstore/cafe, Politics & Prose.

March and April have been particularly exciting months for cultural events.  The annual EALS Symposium, hosted and organized by Arts Management students at AU, involved an amazing series of panelists, engaging discussions, and students in the arts from around DC and throughout the U.S.  The past two months have been particularly special because of the centennial celebration of the Cherry Blossom trees.  Not only did I get to see the national Cherry Blossoms for the first time, I got to participate in the 100th anniversary of the gift of Cherry Blossoms from Japan.

Over the next week, the curatorial class will open an exhibit in the Katzen Museum, the producing class will host Katzen Jammers: A Cabaret, and I will be taking my final exams and officially completing the first year in my performing arts management degree.  I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the care and support of my family and loved ones back home.  I am so fortunate to have such wonderful people in my life and to have the opportunity to participate in cultural events every day.

Summer fun ahead!