As many of you know, I have been a violinist in the Chiara String Quartet for the last 18 years, and the quartet decided together this past year to go separate ways to pursue individual creative endeavors and dreams that needed to go beyond our group. The last major public concert took place at the Metropolitan Museum in NYC this May, and since then, my husband, who is also the cellist in the group, and I have been wrapping up our time working at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We have been in residence at the University along with others members of the Chiara for 13 years after graduating from the String Quartet Artist Diploma program at The Juilliard School in 2005. We are now getting ready to move back to the east coast, an area that I consider more of home than any other place in the United States.
After we decided to move back out east, people have often asked me, “what’s out there? Are you moving for a job?” When I have answered this question with my 15-20 minute manifesto of how I wanted to create an arts community, develop a culturally diverse audiences for classical music, teach, perform, lead a creative life, etc, I noticed excitement but also slight exhaustion especially from people who weren’t completely invested in my dramatic life and its outcomes. A simple “I’ll be freelancing,” however, tended to bring up fears that expressed themselves in statements like “you will figure it out.”
A few weeks ago, I had a chance to look at my calendar for the upcoming year and reflect on the emptiness of it. Being in a full-time string quartet, because of its intense schedule and commitment, is not for the faint-hearted, but that part of my life was coming to an end. When was the last time my schedule looked like this? My reaction to the openness was complicated. There was definite fear. Fear that my worth was equal to the work that I did, fear that people didn’t love me and didn’t want to work with me. Is my calendar ever going to fill up again? Coupled with that fear, however, was also a deep exhale that gave release to the fibers of my being. I will finally have time to explore, just be, find the well that only reveals its cool refreshing waters when I take ample time to look for it. I am going to have this time for my own.
Greg and I will be starting our 21-hour drive leaving Nebraska today with two cars, two children, and a sedated cat. We will be making our home in West Hartford, CT, within striking distance of Boston and New York but away from the intensity of a big city life. The public schools are great, our ballerina daughter will thrive studying at the Hartt School’s amazing Community Dance Division, and we’ll be so much closer to many of our beloved family members and friends. I’m excited to get to know the area intimately, to perform on my own apart from the quartet, launch new projects that will build community that I want to be a part of, and bring joy and creativity to people’s lives and my own.
Apart from building my solo and chamber music performing career and starting my own teaching studio, I want to start a performing organization that is community-based and focuses on presenting and developing culturally diverse performers and audiences. Another project I have been researching for in the last few months that I’m super excited about is starting an online platform for Asian American classical musicians, a community of sorts that is geared towards inspiring innovation, creativity, and leadership through articles, videos, and forums. There are so many Asian Americans working in the field of classical music, but the numbers in leadership positions are small relative to the whole. I would like see a positive change in this matter, and maybe this website will help that path along.
I’m excited to be starting the second half of my life this way and beyond grateful for the many years that my dear Chiara friends, Becca, Jonah, and Greg, have walked alongside with me. The chance to restart at a midpoint in your life with tools on one’s belt and a stronger sense of self is a rare gift that I embrace wholeheartedly and am thankful for.