Yo-Yo Ma Returns To Guangzhou With Youth Project Focused On Bach
For the last three years in January, the attention of the classical music world has turned to Guangzhou, China, where Yo-Yo Ma and some of his closest collaborators work with students in an intense week of education, collaboration, and exploration at Youth Music Culture Guangdong (YMCG). 2020's theme focuses on the musical center of Bach and outreach into local communities. YMCG is hosted by the Guangdong Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism, the Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, and the Xinghai Concert Hall.
YMCG Artistic Director, Yo-Yo Ma, acts as a cultural messenger that spans the barriers between East and West and the ancient and modern music traditions. He reflects, "In times of change and uncertainty, people often turn to the wisdom of those who have gone before us. Whether philosophers or artists, the 'ancients' can often see our situation more clearly than we can ourselves, reminding us of the eternal truths about the world and humanity that connect us regardless of whatever our current difficulty may be.
"Johann Sebastian Bach is one of those 'ancients.' Even though he lived almost 300 years ago and never traveled more than 250 miles from the place of his birth, he wrote music that still speaks to us today, no matter where we live. Bach is able to do this because he is a "scientist-artist," someone who tells us the objective truth about ourselves, but does so with real empathy and understanding. And in that truth, we find a place where we can meet and understand each other."
The young musicians who participate in this year's 9-day workshop - January 10-18, 2020 - will explore the questions of how the music of Bach, a fundamental composer of Western classical music, is relevant in Guangzhou in the 21st century; how his music can keep pace with the times, become integrated into the present, and inspire the future. The Grammy-winning world-class trumpet master Wynton Marsalis called Bach "the first jazz musician," which fully reflects Bach's ability to improvise and adapt to different instruments and musical forms. These skills are extremely important for contemporary musicians and will be a large focus of YMCG.
Events for the 2020 YMCG participants include lectures; regular "office hours," sessions with a few students and one faculty member where students can focus on questions about technique, interpretation, or the life of a musician; master classes with faculty members and Yo-Yo Ma; and "salons," relaxed events in which musicians can share a meal and read chamber music together.
In collaboration with maestros Long Yu and Michael Stern, Yo-Yo Ma curates more than a dozen respected instructors for the intense week of learning. On the string faculty, Mike Block returns for the fourth year with YMCG. Mr. Block is a pioneering multi-style cellist, faculty member at the New England Conservatory, and member of the Silkroad Ensemble. Four members of the Brooklyn Rider quartet also lead the string faculty: Colin Jacobsen (violin), Johnny Gandelsman (violin), Nicholas Cords (viola), and Michael Nicolas (cello). Jacobsen has appeared as soloist with the New York Philharmonic and San Francisco Symphony, and is the co- founder and co-Artistic Director of the orchestral collective The Knights. Gandelsman has premiered dozens of works by contemporary composers, and in 2018, released a beautiful account of Bach's sonatas and partitas. Cords is a faculty member at New England Conservatory, as well as the co-Artistic Director of Silkroad and a soloist with major orchestras such as The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Nicolas is a former Associate Principal Cello with the Montreal Symphony and also a member of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE). The final string faculty member is the violist Hsin-Yun Huang, an acclaimed soloist and chamber musician and a viola professor at the Juilliard School and the Curtis School of Music.
Winds and brass faculty include Michael Gordon, returning to YMCG from the Kansas City Symphony, where he is Principal Flute. He is joined by Thomas Hooten, Principal Trumpet of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and a faculty member at the University of Southern California. Jennifer Montone is the Principal Horn of The Philadelphia Orchestra and is on the faculty at the Curtis Institute of Music and the Juilliard School. And finally, Richard Woodhams joins as oboe faculty - Woodhams was Principal Oboe in The Philadelphia Orchestra for more than 40 seasons and is a current professor at the Curtis Institute of Music.
The 2020 project culminates in a "Bach Marathon" in the Xinghai Concert Hall on January 18, 2020 in which the young musicians perform for the public in a variety of different chamber ensembles, Silkroad bands, and as one large orchestra, from the afternoon to the evening.
"Through education, we plant seeds, and we will harvest ideas, concepts and relationships in the future," says Long Yu, chairman of the YMCG Artistic Committee. "This generation will do better than us. People must learn to listen to each other and music is one way to learn to listen. China is a big country, sometimes the northerners can't understand the southerners. This is true within just our country, let alone the rest of the world. But now we have so many young people who are willing to learn the world of music, and I hope this will cultivate communication with each other in all interactions."
From the first workshop held in 2017, YMCG has hosted 203 young musicians from 12 countries and 27 cities. Among them are young musicians who have already worked in well-known orchestras, and studied at famous music institutions in China and abroad such as the Central Conservatory of Music, China Conservatory of Music, Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Curtis Institute of Music, Juilliard School of Music, Yale University School of Music, Royal Conservatory of Music, and Singapore's Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music.
2020 Youth Music Culture Guangdong applications are open now until October 25, 2019. Young musicians from all countries aged 18-35 are welcome to apply. Musicians will experience great mentors led by Yo-Yo Ma and his close collaborators.
Please visit the official website at www.ymcgchina.com for more information.