BWW Interview: Musical Wunderkind Kelly Deng of THE GREAT RUSSIAN NUTCRACKER at Fox Theatre says it's a Beautiful Art!
The Moscow Ballet is returning to Detroit this weekend to danceThe Great Russian Nutcracker for three special performances at The Fox Theatre. There is something very special about this tour called "Musical Wunderkind," which is youth musicians in every city accompanying the Moscow Ballet's principal ballerinas in Saint Saen's "Dying Swan" from Carnival of the Animals, now commonly known as the influence for Odette's movement's in Swan Lake, in many cities on the national tour. The Wunderkind, each in their respective cities, rehearse with the principal ballerina and open the Great Russian Nutcracker in a duo of musician and ballerina to the delight of audiences. Detroit audiences will have the pleasure of seeing local violinist, Kelly Deng, perform on stage with the company during the 8pm show. Deng has been playing since she was six years old and could not be more excited to be chosen as the Detroit Musical Wunderkind for the Moscow Ballet. BroadwayWorld Detroit had a few moments to speak with her about the honor, what it is like to play from such a young age, and why Detroit should come see The Great Russian Nutcracker this weekend at The Fox Theatre.
BroadwayWorld Detroit: Your press biography states, "Kelly Deng has been playing the violin since the age of six." How did you get started into music, especially at such a young age?
Kelly Deng: Music wise, I started when I was six and its always been a big part of my life. Even when I was a baby, my mom would play me classical musical. Then when I was six, she asked me what instrument I wanted to play and that's how I got started playing the violin. Then later around the age of seven, I started playing in orchestras. It's always been a big part of my life. It started when I was seven, my mom would wrap up a box because my feet wouldn't touch the ground and I would put my feet on that. Since my school, Northville High School, doesn't have an orchestra, I've always played in community orchestras. But even in middle school and elementary school, they never had a string program, it was always wind. When I said I wanted to play violin, I never really had the opportunity to do it in school. I would reach out to these community orchestras. I started out in Livonia, then I moved around a few times and then I finally found my home in the Detroit Metropolitan Youth Symphony.
BWW Detroit: You said that your mother asked you at the age of six what you wanted to play, do you know looking back, what made you pick the violin? That's a young age to be so certain about an instrument.
Kelly Deng: I think it was all the recording that she played for me. My mom always wanted to play the violin, but she never got the chance. She would play me these recordings and they would usually be symphonies or solo violins. And even at that young age, I think just fell in love with the sound of it.
BWW Detroit: Does music run in your family or are you the first professional musician
Kelly Deng: I would say I was the first. My brother played in band, but he was never too serious about it. My mom really helped me cultivate that love of music without all those recordings and all the CDs that we still have, I don't think I would have been the same leaning towards music like that.
BWW Detroit: Do you only play violin or do you play any other instruments?
Kelly Deng: Since I started at such a young age, I have always just been on violin. I tried out piano a little. And just recently I started dabbling in ukulele and guitar, but it's always been violin for me.
BWW Detroit: It says that you have served as Concertmaster for Detroit Metropolitan Youth Symphony (DMYS) and for the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camps' Youth Symphony. Could you tell our those of our readers what a Concertmaster is and what is it like serving as Concertmaster at such a young age?
Kelly Deng: A Concertmaster would be the section leader of the first violin. So, I help the orchestra tune, give fingerings and bowings to my section - the first and section violins. I think it's a really humbling experience to have all these really great musicians looking up to you. It's something that I love to do. I love giving out fingerings, helping out with bowings, just like doing whatever I can to make sure that my section as a whole sounds great, is cohesive, and making sure that everyone is having fun while also learning new skills. It's also been a lot of fun. And just like playing in an orchestra as a whole, I love it! I love helping other people love it as well.
BWW Detroit: Where do you hope to see yourself go with skills in the future?
Kelly Deng: Right now, I'm a junior in high school, so I'm definitely going to continue playing at DMYS until senior year. Then after that I would love to either double major in either music and science or do a minor in music. I think that would be really cool and a great way to extend it. I was talking to my teacher, who was a professional musician, and we were talking about being community orchestras as an adult and helping my kids also, I mean looking that far into the future. I think it just like a great skill to have so I hope that my kids will continue that as well.
BWW Detroit: What is it like to be have been to chosen to be the Musical Wunderkind at the Moscow Ballet and perform during The Great Russian Nutcracker?
Kelly Deng: It's just a big honor. I wasn't expecting anything like it. I was thrilled when they told me. I think it's a great way to really know how to be a soloist performer. This is the first time I've been with a ballet, a ballerina, and accompanying that so I think that is really cool to get the opportunity to do that. Not many people can say they performed with Moscow Ballet.
BWW Detroit: What are you most looking forward to about this performance?
Kelly Deng: Everything! I just love Christmas! So being able to perform this piece particularly is really exciting. "The Dying Swan" is a beautiful piece, especially for a solo ballet, and I've heard it so many times that it's really exciting to be the one performing it instead of just listening to a recording.
BWW Detroit: You have performed solos before, but this a solo on a completely new level for you - how do you feel?
Kelly Deng: Oh yeah, definitely, the few times I have performed solos that was for competitions, so they're mostly longer. They're upbeat and very fast. This is the first time I will be performing something slow and beautiful that requires a lot of skill and technique.
BWW Detroit: On a normal basis, how often do you practice? How often have you been practicing to get ready for this show?
Kelly Deng: Depending on school and workloads and stuff like that, I try to get in about 45 minutes a day. Due to this performance, I think I've been trying to amp it up to about an hour a day, just trying to get in as much time as I have.
BWW Detroit: Why should people come see the Moscow Ballet's, The Great Russian Nutcracker with you, the Musical Wunderkind?
Kelly Deng: As our conductor always reminds us, classical music is losing their following even though it is a such a beautiful art. I think that people should come to this because it's so refined and it's so peaceful. I mean they have their dove dances and they work so hard on them. I think that everything comes together so perfectly in their performances. I've seen a lot of videos that they have done and it's incredible! And even the music - it's been around for so long that it's truly a classic. I think that people of all ages will just appreciate that and the expertise that they really practice.
The Moscow Ballet's The Great Russian Nutcracker will be here for a special engagement of three performances on Sunday, December 23rd at 12pm (noon), 4pm, and 8pm at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. The Musical Wunderkind, Kelly Deng, will appear at the 8pm performance. For more information and tickets, visit www.nutcracker.com/your-city.
Connect with Kelly Deng on Instagram at @kelly.deng. All the Musical Wunderkinds and their bios, including Deng, are listed here: https://www.nutcracker.com/Community-Engagement/musical-wunderkind-strings.
All images copyright Moscow Ballet.