Composer Viet Cuong

Sound and Smoke is a highlight of our winter 2018 program.  Both the title and concept of Sound and Smoke were derived from a line from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s play Faust, when Faust equates words to “mere sound and smoke” and declares that “feeling is everything.”

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Read the program notes for Sound and Smoke here.

Called “alluring” and “wildly inventive” by The New York Times, Viet Cuong’s music has been performed on six continents by a number of leading soloists and ensembles including the PRISM Saxophone Quartet, Sō Percussion, JACK Quartet, Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, Jacksonville Symphony, Albany Symphony, Gregory Oakes, and Mimi Stillman, in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Aspen Music Festival, International Double Reed Society Conference, US Navy Band International Saxophone Symposium, Midwest Clinic, and CBDNA conferences. Viet’s awards include the ASCAP Morton Gould Award, Suzanne and Lee Ettelson Award, Theodore Presser Foundation Music Award, Cortona Prize, Walter Beeler Memorial Prize, Boston Guitarfest Competition, Dolce Suono Ensemble Competition, and Prix d’Été Competition. He also received honorable mentions in the Harvey Gaul Memorial Competition and two consecutive ASCAP/CBDNA Frederick Fennell Prizes. Viet has held artist residencies at Yaddo, Ucross, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and was a scholarship student at the Eighth Blackbird Creative Lab, Copland House’s CULTIVATE Institute, and the Aspen and Bowdoin music festivals. Currently a Diploma student at the Curtis Institute and a Naumburg and Roger Sessions Doctoral Fellow at Princeton, he holds Bachelors and Masters degrees from the Peabody Conservatory.


We contacted Mr. Cuong and asked him to share with us his thoughts on his journey in music, his musical influences and inspirations and words of advice that he has for young musicians.

Please tell us a bit about your journey in music and in life.  There aren’t any musicians in my family that I know of—my mom and brother are engineers and my dad is a scientist. However, my mother thought it would be good for me to start piano when I was quite young, I think around 5. She read somewhere that learning classical music could make me better at math later on in life! I never really enjoyed practicing, so I stopped lessons after about a year. But I thankfully didn’t write off music completely—when I got to middle school I joined band as a percussionist and miraculously remembered how to read music. Around this time I decided to try piano lessons again, and (surprise, surprise) still didn’t like to practice, but I did discover that I really enjoyed making my own music from scratch. One day I downloaded Finale Notepad and began to actually write down my piano improvisations, as well as some of my early attempts to imitate music we played in band. Since I was a percussionist, I was often counting rests and observing how composers wrote for the ensemble; in many ways, this is how I originally taught myself to write for winds. All throughout high school I played percussion and clarinet in the band program, and composing was something I enjoyed doing on the side. I never really had a composition teacher until I went to the Peabody Conservatory for college and majored in music composition. After Peabody I did graduate work at Princeton and right now I’m now at the Curtis Institute pursuing an AD.

What have been some of your musical influences?  Stravinsky, John Adams, Ravel, Ligeti, Bach, and lots of pop music. All of my teachers and their wonderful music have really influential on me as well.

Please share a bit about your favorite musical memory?  I’ve had so many great experiences with music, and it’s really hard to choose…I did recently have a premiere of a percussion quartet concerto with Sandbox Percussion and the Albany Symphony that was a blast!

Which composer/musician – past or present – would you most like to meet for a coffee and why? Beethoven. If his music is any indication, it would be a complex and amusing conversation. They also say he was a big fan of coffee!

What inspires you? Listening to the music of other composers and musicians is always inspiring to me. I’m also inspired by the idea of pushing myself with every new piece to try something I haven’t done before.

Do you have any advice for young musicians? Every so often encourage yourself to listen, perform, or write a piece that you would have originally thought to be unenjoyable.

Please share any thoughts that you may have about the Northshore Concert Band. I’ve been a fan of Northshore for years, and I’m so excited to be a part of this concert. Thank you so much!

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Viet Cuong and Mallory Thompson at The Midwest Clinic, Chicago, 2017

A special thank you to Mr. Cuong for speaking with us and giving permission to reproduce this material.  Please visit his website at www.vietcuongmusic.com to learn more about this notable American composer.


Truly Wonderful The Mind of a Child Is…

Sunday, February 18, 2018, 3:00 pm

Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University

50 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston, Illinois


Learn more about the Northshore Concert Band at www.northshoreband.org

Follow this blog to receive more informative and entertaining interviews.

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Musicians & Music

Meet the extraordinary men and women of Northshore Concert Band who have dedicated their lives to making music!

ANN MOTOGAWA

Ann Motogawa

Ann Motogawa plays the Bassoon and has been with the Northshore Concert Band since 2000. She is a volunteer and lives in Evanston, Illinois.

When and why did you start playing? 5th Grade. My dad was a band director and my mom was a music teacher, so it was just assumed that I’d play.

What do you enjoy most about playing? I love doing something else, apart from daily life, and sharing that experience with others who enjoy doing the same thing.

Do you have a favorite musical memory?  One of my favorite musical memories was on the NCB France trip. That first night we played a concert in the hometown of one of the organizers. We hadn’t played together in a while because of the pre-trips and everyone’s travel plans, we were jet lagged, and we had no idea what we were going to sound like in that town square. We pulled off one of the best performances of the trip, and when we played Carmen Dragon’s America the Beautiful it literally gave everyone goosebumps.

What are your musical influences? My dad. He loved music so much and really dedicated his life and talents to VanderCook College of Music, Northshore Band, the Mid-West Clinic, and the American Bandmasters Association.

Who was your most influential music teacher? Wilbur Simpson. He was such a great teacher, had an uncanny ability to pick literature that you could really feel close to, and we had many fun nights with him smoking his pipe (it was the 80’s!) and boiling reeds on his stove.

Does anyone in your family play music? My dad played Eb clarinet in NCB from the mid-1960’s through the 88-89 season. My mom played bassoon in NCB from 1975 through the 88-89 season (and was also Steve Moline’s stand partner!). My 13 year old daughter plays French Horn and my 11 year old daughter plays clarinet.

What’s on your iPod? A crazy mix of stuff from the Grateful Dead to 80’s, Elton John to Taylor Swift. We actually have all our music set up on our home Mac, and have enough music to continuous play, 24×7, for over 6 months. I’m also a big surfer on a multitude of Sirius channels.

Do you have any advice for young musicians?  Music will not only provide you with a creative outlet and something fun to do, but also many great friendships over the years.

What makes performing with Northshore Concert Band different than performing with other groups? Everyone really wants to be there and is really dedicated to the organization.

List three words to describe the Northshore Concert Band. Accomplished, improving, inspirational

Please add anything else that you would like our readers to know about you.  I grew up around NCB because both my parents were playing. For years, Susan Hawes (Debbie’s daughter) and I handed out the programs to the audience at the Pick-Staiger concerts. I earned a ton of medals at the Festival. I went with the band to Europe in 1975. I made Christmas ornaments for the annual fundraiser Bazaar and was there as they played three concerts every July 4. As a kid I also won John Paynter’s “Guess the Number of Keys” contest a few times with the prize of directing a march! NCB has always been in my life and I’m glad that I have been able to give back to it through the years by developing programs like Lifetime of Music and the Kickstarter campaign.

Learn more about the Northshore Concert Band at http://www.northshoreband.org

Follow this blog to receive more informative and entertaining interviews of Northshore Concert Band members in this Musicians & Music series!

Musicians & Music

Meet the extraordinary men and women of Northshore Concert Band who have dedicated their lives to making music!

RICHARD LEHMAN

Rich Lehman

Richard Lehman plays Percussion and has been with the Northshore Concert Band since 2005. He is a Band Director and lives in Chicago, Illinois.

When and why did you start playing? I started playing in 4th grade at the age of 9; I picked percussion because I annoyed my sister by banging on the dinner table with the silverware.

What do you enjoy most about playing? What we do is intensely personal and over time we have a concert it is a gift that we the musicians get to give the audience. Giving that gift to others is what I love most about playing.

Do you have a favorite musical memory?  Being a music teacher there are quite a few I get to choose from, but one of my highlights is getting to guest conduct the Pennsylvania District 8 Honor Band.

What are your musical influences? I love the music of the Big Band era and composers like Barber, Bernstein, Copland and Gershwin.

Who was your most influential music teacher? That’s difficult because I believe each teacher I’ve had the honor of studying with has helped shape me into the teacher I am today. Dr. Thompson helped push me into being a better musician and not settling for being adequate and it’s a blessing to rehearse with her each week. My colleague and friend, Terry Melbourn has taught me (and continues to teach me) how to be an outstanding middle school band director.

Does anyone in your family play music? My mom plays the organ and piano and my sister plays the piano. If you ask my father what he plays, he will respond by saying, “the radio.”

What’s on your iPod? A lot of podcasts ranging from Radical with David Platt to This American Life.

Do you have any advice for young musicians? Anything in life that is worthwhile takes time and commitment.

What makes performing with Northshore Concert Band different than performing with other groups? It’s the level of playing and life experiences that each member brings to the music that makes it better than other groups I’ve had the chance to perform with.

List three words to describe the Northshore Concert Band. Inspirational, Dedicated and Giving

 

Learn more about the Northshore Concert Band at http://www.northshoreband.org

Follow this blog to receive more informative and entertaining interviews of Northshore Concert Band members in this Musicians & Music series!