Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Soloist Profile: Boxianzi Vivian Ling in Conversation with Christian Baldini

Boxianzi (Vivian) Ling is joining us with the Camellia Symphony Orchestra to kick off our Season 57, performing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto on a program that also includes Borodin's Symphony No. 2, and Nicole Lizée's Zeiss After Dark. 

Christian Baldini: Hello Boxianzi, it is a real pleasure to have you with us as our featured soloist for this concert in Sacramento. Please tell us about the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto and why it is an important piece to you personally. What is so special about it that captivates you?

Boxianzi Vivian Ling: The Tchaikovsky violin concerto to me has always been my favorite violin concerto. I can remember the first time l heard this concerto, as soon as the opening violin theme comes in, I was instantly drawn into the music. The first recording that I listened to was actually played by one of my older studio mates while I was still in the second grade. The piece seemed so difficult that I thought it would be impossible to play. The concerto then became a major goal for me in my development as a musician. When I started to learn the piece, I felt like it was so familiar as if I already knew how to play it. Out of all the major violin concertos (Brahms, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn), the Tchaikovsky to me has the most beautiful melodies. I also really love the orchestration because it interacts with solo violin throughout the whole piece, especially at the end of the finale when the dialogue reaches a climax. As an artist, this piece offers me amazing amounts of freedom to express multiple emotions and feelings. I feel like this is one of those pieces that allow for a wide array of interpretations. 

CB: Please tell us about your background and your childhood. When did you become interested in music, and where did you grow up? Did you ever play another instrument besides the violin? Was there someone who was particularly important in your upbringing, who was an inspiration to you and helped you become a musician?

BVL: I was born in Changsha, which is the capital of Hu' nan province in China. My dad was a big fan of classical music and my mom would bring home lots of DVD recordings of the Berlin philharmonic, Vienna Phil concerts. So from an early age, I was constantly listening to symphonies. Before my fifth birthday, my dad asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I asked him for a little violin and he got it for me. I started taking group lessons on the very next day. Both my parents would come with me to lessons and my dad basically learned violin for the first year. I remember he would be the metronome and tuner at the same time while he practiced with me. My dad has great ears and would always tell me when something didn't sound right. My parents were very strict. If I didn't practice for my lesson my dad would not come with me to the lessons and it would only be my mom driving me on her motorcycle. Soon after changing a couple of teachers, I then decided to move to Shanghai to continue studying at the primary school affiliated with the Shanghai Conservatory. My parents were left behind in Changsha because they needed to work, so it was my Grandma that came with and lived with me in Shanghai. I spent the next seven years there learning, studying and practicing. I met my teacher Wei He who was a professor at SFCM and he offered to teach me in the US while I finished high school in Marin county. While growing up I also taught myself how to play the piano, which comes in handy when I study accompaniment parts. My favorite violinist when I was a little girl was Hilary Hahn.  

CB: What are some of your favorite past times or hobbies? What do you do outside music?

BVL: Ping Pong. I was really good when I was a little girl. I was an absolute machine. It was either violin or ping pong. I haven't played since I quit years ago. Now I enjoy spending time with my two cats, eating amazing food all around SF and photography and yoga. 

CB: What are those pieces that you would take to a desert island? And perhaps more generally, who are your favorite composers?

BVL: The big concertos that I love are Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Beethoven and Mendelssohn. If I had to pick one composer's works to bring to a desert island it would be Mozart's.

CB: You have obviously accomplished a lot already, playing chamber music, as a soloist, as concertmaster of the SF Youth Orchestra, and developing your own voice. And where would you like to be in 5 or 10 years? What would you like to be doing, or where?

BVL: I would love to be playing in a major orchestra. I currently sub for the SF symphony. I recently played Mahler 6 with MTT and it was a very special experience in my career. I also learn a lot and enjoy teaching. So I can also see myself having a violin studio wherever I am based. If I am lucky enough I would love to continue playing solo concertos with orchestras. 

CB: What would you recommend to a young musician starting out? What is some good advice for someone who would like to become a professional musician?

BVL: I would tell a young musician to push yourself and work hard but not any harder than it needs to be to achieve your goals. And never lose your own voice when playing music. because the beauty of music exists within your own interpretation. 

CB: It's been really wonderful to have the chance to know more about you and your upbringing. Thank you for sharing your wonderful talent and dedication with our audience, and I very much look forward to our performance together!

BVL: Thank you so much! It is such an honor and pleasure to work and perform this concerto with you and the Camellia symphony Orchestra.


Boxianzi (Vivian) Ling,  Violin

Boxianzi was born in Hunan, China. She started playing violin at age 5, and was accepted into the prestigious Elementary School Affiliated to Shanghai Conservatory of Music at age 9. She was featured on China National TV broadcasting playing Mendelssohn violin concerto when she was 12. She has also soloed with Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra. Entering the professional spotlight,  Boxianzi made her debut with the San Francisco Ballet, with Maestro Martin West, on April 2017, performing the Prokofiev violin concerto. She currently subs with the San Francisco Symphony, performing alongside MMT and other sf symphony members.

Other notable accomplishments of Boxianzi’s career has been winning the Young Artists Concerto Competition with Oakland East Bay Symphony Orchestra in 2012,  winning the Parnassus Conservatory Youth Competition in 2016, and claiming first prize in the 2018 San Francisco Conservatory of Music violin concerto competition.

She was the concertmaster of San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra from 2014-2016 and participated in the SFSYO European tour where she played in the Berlin Philharmonie and the The Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. She is currently a Junior student studying with Professor  Ian Swensen and Chen Zhao at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She previously studied with Professor Wei He at San Francisco Conservatory.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Concertmaster Profile: Chase Spruill in Conversation with Christian Baldini

Meet Chase Spruill: The New Concertmaster of the Camellia Symphony Orchestra

Christian Baldini: Chase, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the Camellia Symphony Orchestra family as our new concertmaster. It was a real pleasure to work with you last season as one of our guest concertmasters, and based on the wonderful feedback we received, I know I speak for our orchestra members as well when I welcome you with open arms into your new position.

Chase Spruill: Thanks, Maestro-- it's really a joy to be joining you all this season.  It was a pretty special feeling stepping in as a guest last season.  There's always a little bit of nervousness for me when I'm doing something like that because you feel like you're walking into somebody else's home, but everybody was so warm and open during that time, and so committed to joyful music-making and doing their best...when you see something like that, it's hard to pass up the opportunity when you're given a reason to stay with that community longer!

CB: After having developed a fruitful career in the East Coast, you recently returned to the Sacramento region, and it's wonderful to have you with us sharing everything you bring into your position from your experience as a seasoned chamber musician and orchestral musician. What are some of the experiences you remember most fondly from your time working with folks like Philip Glass, Steve Mackey and the Kronos Quartet?

CS: Always the rehearsals.  Performances should stand out for me, but it's the rehearsals which stick out in my mind.  There's so much dialogue and conversation in the rehearsal, and the endeavor to draw something out of the music we were playing felt so shared, I don't think I knew when I first started working with those kinds of artists that it was okay to be human and spirited and inquisitive.  In my musical life, I grew up listening to and admiring those artists, and in my imagination, I thought playing with them would mean I had to walk some kind of ultra-prepared, uncompromising line, and that they would somehow like me more if I did things the way I assumed they were used to other musicians doing them, and I couldn't have been more wrong.  They knew I respected their work and wanted to be with them and learn from them, yet they never implied that I should be quiet.  I was always shocked at the amount of times questions would come my way about what I was hearing or thinking, or whether I could think of any new approaches.  Working with them really solidified in my own spirit the kind of human being I wanted to work to be in the music world.  

CB: Tell us Chase, how did you begin your musical path? Was there a person or a few people that were particularly influential and inspiring to you?

CS: Like a lot of young people, I started music in public schools when I was 10 years old.  I'd always been drawn to film music, so when the offering came around, I chose violin, and I was getting pretty serious about it.  Unfortunately, when I was 12, I suffered a pretty life-altering injury which left me bedridden, wheelchair-bound, and in-and-out of surgeries for the next two years, which also meant I had to come in-and-out of school.  I have a very close relationship with my parents, and they don't know the meaning of the word "Quit."  During that time, getting me back to health and while supporting my rehabilitation, they were the ones who tried to create as much normalcy for me as possible, and they saw that I was serious about violin and music, so they figured out a way to get the arms off my wheelchair, got me set up so I could play and practice, hired a private music teacher named Matthew Grasso whom I still learn from and play music with to this day, and the rest is history.  I've never stopped.  I'd have to say if there were people who were particularly influential and inspiring to me, it'd have to be my parents.  Musically, Matt continues to inspire me, my other longtime teacher and friend Anna Presler, the lot of people from the Philip Glass camp such as longtime director of the Philip Glass Ensemble Michael Riesman, and my good friend Richard Guerin.  I knew of them long before they knew of me, but I'm really happy we know about each other now.

CB: What are some of your musical dreams, ideals or plans?

CS: I've had a longtime, healthy obsession with British composer Michael Nyman.  I've wanted to play in the Michael Nyman Band for as long as I can remember--like the same way David Bowie knew he wanted to play sax with Little Richard's band.  The good news is that it seems closer as a possibility now than it ever has before.  I keep asking Nyman if I can pay my way to play just one show with them.  Just one!  I think he thinks I'm being flattering and borderline ridiculous, but occasionally when we talk, he hints that maybe that dream will get to come true for me soon.  I keep hoping!  And practicing.

CB: In your opinion, what could we change or add to the concert experience to make it more inclusive, more welcoming, and even more special than it currently is?

CS: That you and the Orchestra are even asking that question I think makes a world of difference to the community you're serving.  Discovering the best functions for what Camellia Symphony Orchestra does for the immediate and surrounding community is huge.  Keeping the transparency and presence of the orchestra in places where more people have access.  I'm blown away and love the idea that the orchestra occasionally plays concerts on a rooftop.  I love that schools and young people and their families have access to live performances.  Staying in that gear and doubling down on those efforts goes such a long way, and I'm looking forward to joining in those efforts while we're together.

CB: Thank you so much for sharing all this about yourself. We look forward to wonderful collaborations together with you and the Camellia Symphony Orchestra.

CS: Maestro, this is great, thank you.  I love what the orchestra's been doing.  I'm excited to get to work!

Violinist Chase Spruill is forging unique paths connecting contemporary chamber music, music education and public service. He was an artist-in-residence and founding violinist of Sacramento State University’s contemporary chamber music ensemble before accepting a residency at the Nationally celebrated not-for-profit organization Community MusicWorks in Providence, RI where he served as a core faculty member and resident musician from 2012-2017, and was appointed a visiting professor of violin at Wheaton College in Norton, MA from 2015-2017. He’s performed with and collaborated closely alongside notable artists in the field such as Kronos Quartet, Emmanuel Ax, Steven Mackey, Johnny Gandelsman of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Project with Yo-Yo Ma, and currently tours as a duo alongside pianist and longtime director of the Philip Glass Ensemble Michael Riesman. Spruill’s Philip Glass recordings can be found on the composer’s label Orange Mountain Music, where he will be featured on Riesman’s forthcoming album Philip Glass Soundtracks, volume 2 available May 24, 2019.

In 2018, he joined the independent record label Supertrain Records alongside a roster of artists including William Bolcom, Dennis Russell Davies, and Zbigniew Preisner. His first release with the label celebrates the violinist’s ongoing collaboration with award-winning British composer Michael Nyman (notable composer of such films as The Piano, Gattaca, and The End of the Affair...) whom turned 75 in March of 2019. YAMAMOTO PERPETUO is a beautiful, fiery marathon of a score written for a fashion show in Paris during a collaboration with lauded designer Yohji Yamamoto. It is the first widely-available recording of the 12-movement virtuoso work in its intended form (it later became the entirety of the first violin part for String Quartet no.4, a basis for Strong on Oaks, Strong on the Causes of Oaks written for chamber orchestra, and his Violin Concerto no.2) and is the violinist’s solo debut album. Nyman raves that Spruill’s recording,”...is played with fierce dedication...” In the summer of 2019, Chase Spruill was appointed as the new Concertmaster of the Camellia Symphony Orchestra in Sacramento.