When Min Kwon called me to discuss her project “America the Beautiful,” I was driving on NY Throughway heading up to the Shawangunk Mountains. In the first few minutes of the conversation, I wanted to tell Min about my love for rock climbing, the sacredness of the mountains and their closeness to the American spirit as they live in my heart. But somehow, I didn’t have to say any of that. Min took the words right out of my mouth. Just like when Katherine Bates was inspired by Pike’s Peak in Colorado as we know about the poem in the hymn, she took the words right out of my heart.
Part cartoon character, part virtuoso, musical whiz kid Wang Jie has been nudging serious music and its concert audiences into spectacular frontiers over the past few seasons. Her “FROM NEW YORK, WITH LOVE" transformed a classic percussionist into a dervish-like rock star. Her chamber opera “FLOWN” dramatized the end of a rocky love affair by having the two pianists attack each other and their shared instrument. Despite having the worst title in the history of music, "OBOE CONCERTO FOR THE GENUINE HEART OF SADNESS” channeled the power of Liang Wang, the principle oboist of the New York Philharmonic, and the League of Composers Orchestra into an orgiastic whirlwind. An unexpected collaboration with comedy writer Paul Simms inspired a song cycle titled “Lord? Please Don’t Let Me Die in a Funny Way”, coaxing belly laughs from an otherwise sedate Opera America audience. Not one to let herself off the hook at her Carnegie Hall debut with the American Composers Orchestra, she shape-shifted into a monkey god swiveling on stage between three keyboards during a performance of her concert opera "FROM THE OTHER SKY".
One day she spins a few notes into large symphonic forms, the next she calls Zodiac animals to the opera stage. It is no accident that Ms. Wang’s stylistic versatility is a rare trait in today's composers. There is a mile-long dossier on Jie’s outside-the-box incidents. It begins with a thrilling escape from a Chinese-military-run kindergarten at the age of four. Behind a touch of glorious madness to Jie’s music, the skill, theatricality and method that once facilitated her youthful escape are now the engines for her appetite to “Engage • Explore • Play”. Jie credits her mentors at the Curtis Institute of Music, the Manhattan School of Music and NYU’s PhD program for all the music mischief she didn’t think was possible.
Most recently, her SYMPHONY NO.2, commissioned and premiered by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Leonard Slatkin was streamed live to a worldwide audience. “SYMPHONIC OVERTURE ‘AMERICA, THE BEAUTIFUL’”, commissioned and premiered by the Colorado Springs Philharmonic right before the 2016 election, brought uplifting tears to many audiences. Symphonic poem “FLYING ON THE SCALY BACKS OF OUR MOUNTAINS”, a commission by the Colorado Music Festival, will receive world premiere production in July 2021. A Buffalo Philharmonic commission is scheduled for a premiere in Fall 2021. Wang Jie is currently upscaling “IT RAINED ON SHAKOPEE”, a prison opera commissioned by Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra. Supported by the McKnight Foundation, Jie spent a year as a resident composer at the Shakopee Correctional Facility in Minnesota, where she conducted field work and opera workshops in collaboration with the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra and the Shakopee prison choir. For a complete list of Jie’s mischief, please visit: www.wangjiemusic.com
As the artistic director of Center for Musical Excellence, I am always on the look out for new and undiscovered talents. They come to me, sometimes, by my colleagues’ recommendations and other times through young artists’ own research about our organization. Tyson Davis and Andrew Bambridge are currently on our roster of CME Young Artists, whom we mentor. Patricio Molina is a CME alumnus. Theo Chandler, Ji-Young Ko, and Daniel Newman-Lessler applied for our Grant program, and I got to know their work through that process. I decide on young artists when I notice a deep passion and drive within them, plus a certain kind of sparkle in the personality and lots of humility. In addition to musical talents, I believe these are the qualities that will take the young artists far. CME’s motto is "Moving Musicians Forward". I’ve chosen our Discovery Composers based on these qualities, whom we felt we could easily move forward.
- Min Kwon