UNC Music Teacher’s Project Highlights Importance of Women Composers


From her performances to her lessons, Clara Yang broadens the definition of classical music.

“The two words, ‘classical music’, do not refer only to a narrow range of composers. Classical music is now so broad, ”said the associate professor of music at UNC. “Classical music now encompasses a very wide range of composers. “

Yang, head of keyboard studies at the university, said his interest in underrepresented voices in music began after completing his classical training.

Although she expressed her gratitude for the program she studied and the people who trained her as a pianist, she said her independence as an artist allowed her to reflect on her goals and his impact as a performer.

“In the process, you start to rethink, as a performer, your role as a performer in society,” Yang said. “What you do, what you play, not just how you play matters.”

Now Yang has a project coming up with the UNC Process Series involving a showcase of performances in all different disciplines which highlights new works in progress. Yang’s performance, titled “Her Story: Journey into the Musical Worlds of Women Composers”, will take place on April 23-24.

The event is expected to feature the compositions of three acclaimed composers: Amy Beach, Florence Price and Liliya Ugay. Yang and her co-presenter Sunmi Chang, Founder and Artistic Director of the Summit Chamber Music Series, will perform pieces throughout the concert.

Beach was a white American musician from the Boston area who became one of the first women to receive national recognition for her compositions in the early 1900s.

Yang said Beach has gone out of her way to help other women throughout her career.

“She helped a lot of people early in their careers,” Yang said. “She was the head of many institutions. She promoted women and women’s work. (Chang and I) both fell in love with her music immediately. Her music really conveys a lot of emotions very easily.”

Florence Price was a black composer from Arkansas. In 1933, she became the first female composer of African origin whose symphonic work was performed by a large American symphony orchestra.

Yang spoke of Price’s masterful talent and the variety of influences she has drawn from her music.

“(Price) had really awesome composition skills and his language, his musical language, is also really amazing,” Yang said. “She is inspired by spirituals and there are also a lot of western techniques in her approach. Her music is just very moving and obviously really reflects her personal experience.”

The third composer, Ugay, is an award-winning assistant professor of composition at Florida State University. She composed a piece called “Mother Tales” especially for this performance.

Yang spoke about the connection she has with both Chang and Ugay. All three are Asian-American mothers, which makes the performance especially special, she said.

“It’s really wonderful to be able to collaborate with other Asian musicians,” said Yang.

Yang said she does not dispute what is already included in the basic repertoire of classical music in higher education, but wants to add to it. More specifically, she wants to highlight the work of under-represented composers, not only for their identity, but also for their talent.

“Classical music has a core repertoire that often doesn’t include these composers, so we want to uplift underrepresented composers, their works,” Yang said. “What I mean is that it’s not just about saying that because they’re women we want to play them, which is also a good reason, but I want to point out that their works are truly amazing. The merit of their work is worthy of any concert hall, and that is the point.

In her classes last fall, Yang said she had assigned a project which focused on research and interpretation of the works of black composers.

“It was both encouraging and appalling to discover so many previously lesser known or less heard artists and composers,” said one of Yang’s students, Sydney Thai, a biology and music student, in a report. -mail. “There have been so many pieces by African American composers that are original, nuanced, and full of meaning, but are less well known or performed simply because the composers did not have the same exposure or opportunity as their white colleagues. . “

Thai performed Price’s “Fantasie No. 2” in G minor. A video of the performance of the whole class is available on the UNC Department of Music YouTube Channel.

With the upcoming spring performance, Chang said in an email statement that she was grateful for the chance to share her dream project as part of the UNC process series. She will perform alongside Yang in “Her Story: Journey into the Musical Worlds of Women Composers”.

Chang was born in South Korea and left the country at the age of 14 to study music around the world. Her personal experiences had an impact on how she entered the classical music scene, she said.

“Looking back, there were a lot of incidents where it was really about the fact that I was a young Asian girl, hence race, gender, age. I didn’t think about it. not much back then, and even throughout my graduate years, ”Chang wrote. “Now, as a mature adult, I’m thinking more about what kind of influence I can have as a musician on the next generation of artists and what I can do to encourage the classical music scene to bring it to life. balance she needs. “

Yang is also excited about the new direction classical music is taking.

“I think it’s really interesting and really great that people are starting to think about things more broadly,” Yang said. “I kind of wanted to push the boundaries of the definition of classical music. It’s really not just what people think.”


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