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Rutgers Professor Min Kwon Announces "America/Beautiful" Project

Rutgers Professor Min Kwon Announces "America/Beautiful" Project

Korean-born American pianist Min Kwon has announced the America/Beautiful project in which more than 70 composers have written individual variations for solo piano on the theme of America the Beautiful. Each interpretation offers a different vision of America during this critical moment, as filtered through the lens of America’s leading compositional voices across a broad spectrum of age, race, gender, and personal experience.  Kwon has been a Professor of Piano at Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University since 2002.

The works will be premiered over the course of six days, beginning July 4, with a series of free streamed video performances by Kwon followed by Q&A sessions with the composers, culminating in two evenings of live performances by Kwon in the Catacombs of The Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn on July 8 and 9.

Said Kwon of the project: "As an immigrant, America has so many different meanings to me. These past few years have left us so deeply divided, and I have often asked myself what kind of a country I will be leaving to my two daughters - whose birthdays happen to fall on President's Day and the Fourth of July. Ultimately this project is about embracing our diversity, and remembering that by understanding, appreciating, and celebrating our differences, we become stronger both as individuals and as a country. The fact that 70 composers can hear the same song in a completely different way is, to me, something truly beautiful."

The 70+ participating composers paint a picture of American diversity, and the many different opinions and emotions found in their interpretations offer a kaleidoscopic view of the country from the roots of its history to the present day struggles it faces. The decorated collection of composers includes multiple winners of Grammys, Emmys, MacArthur "Genius" Grants, Pulitzer, Grawemeyer, Guggenheim, Rome and Doris Duke Prizes, and more, with prominent names such as Timo Andres, Viet Cuong, Richard Danielpour, Reena Esmail, Fred Hersch, Jake Heggie, Vijay Iyer, Aaron Jay Kernis, Hannah Lash, Tania León, George Lewis, Nico Muhly, Shulamit Ran, Terry Riley, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Huang Ruo, Augusta Read Thomas, and many more.

The collection of variations will be premiered over the course of six days, beginning July 4, 2021. The first four nights will feature free streamed video performances of Kwon performing different collections of variations, followed by Q&A sessions with that evening’s composers. Then on July 8 and 9, Kwon will give two evenings of concerts in the Catacombs of The Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

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America/Beautiful was inspired in part by the famous Diabelli variations, where in 1819, Viennese publisher and composer Anton Diabelli called for every important composer in the Austrian empire to write a variation on a patriotic waltz he had composed. Fifty-one composers responded with pieces, including Beethoven, Schubert, an eight-year-old Franz Liszt, and more. Following her curated concert of the 50 Unknown Diabelli Variations at Carnegie Weill Hall in 2017, Kwon already had the vision to create a new version of this for 21st century America, but after the pandemic hit in March and the protests followed in May, it became even more important to her to create a broader reflection on America by re-imagining what’s often been called “the national hymn.” 

All commissions for America/Beautiful were funded by Kwon’s nonprofit organization, the Center for Musical Excellence, which she established to provide professional and financial support, performance and recording opportunities, and individually tailored mentorship to gifted young musicians wishing to pursue a life in music in the United States. CME, celebrating its 11th year in 2021, has impacted more than 150 young artists from 34 countries to date.

July 4, 2021 Livestream #1. Free video stream followed by Q&A with composers. Works by: Samuel Adler, Viet Cuong, Avner Dorman, Alan Fletcher, John Harbison, Libby Larsen, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Paul Schoenfeld, Augusta Read Thomas, Liliya Ugay, Pamela Z

July 5, 2021 Livestream #2. Free video stream followed by Q&A with composers. Works by: Anthony Cheung, Jaehyuck Choi, Pierre Jalbert, Aaron Jay Kernis, Hannah Lash, David Ragland, Shulamit Ran, Jeff Scott, Judith Lang Zaimont, Patrick Zimmerli, Samuel Zyman

July 6, 2021 Livestream #3. Free video stream followed by Q&A with composers. Works by: Jonathan Berger, Kris Bowers, Richard Danielpour, Reena Esmail, Michael Gilbertson, Jake Heggie, Texu Kim, Lei Liang, Daniel Newman-Lessler, Terry Riley, Derrick Spiva

July 7, 2021 Livestream #4. Free video stream followed by Q&A with composers. Works by: Peter Boyer, Kenji Bunch, Theo Chandler, Michael Gandolfi, Stephen Hartke, Jonathan Bailey Holland, Kristjan Järvi, JP Jofre, Jiyoung Ko, Gyan Riley, David Sanford

July 8, 2021 Catacombs Concert #1. Live at the Green-Wood Cemetery. Works by: Bruce Adolphe, Leila Adu-Gilmore, Andrew Bambridge, Victoria Bond, Charles Coleman, Huang Ruo, David Serkin Ludwig, Jessica Meyer, Patricio Molina, John Musto, Qasim Naqvi, Greg Sandow, Juri Seo, Chris Trapani, Trevor Weston

July 9, 2021 Catacombs Concert #2. Live at the Green-Wood Cemetery. Works by: Timo Andres, Sebastian Currier, Tyson Davis, Fred Hersch, Vijay Iyer, Tania León, George Lewis, Miya Masaoka, Paul Moravec, Nico Muhly, Paola Prestini, Gity Razaz, Robert Sirota, Melinda Wagner, Wang Jie

Full List of Composers: Samuel Adler, Bruce Adolphe, Leila Adu-Gilmore, Timo Andres, Andrew Bambridge, Jonathan Berger, Victoria Bond, Peter Boyer, Kris Bowers, Kenji Bunch, Theo Chandler, Anthony Cheung,, Jaehyuck Choi, Charles Coleman, Viet Cuong, Sebastian Currier, Richard Danielpour, Avner Dorman, Tyson Davis, Reena Esmail, Alan Fletcher, Michael Gandolfi, Michael Gilbertson, John Harbison, Stephen Hartke, Jake Heggie, Fred Hersch, Jonathan Bailey Holland, Huang Ruo, Vijay Iyer, Pierre Jalbert, Kristjan Järvi, JP Jofre, Aaron Jay Kernis, Texu Kim, Jiyoung Ko, Libby Larsen, Hannah Lash, Tania León, George Lewis, Lei Liang, David Serkin Ludwig, Miya Masaoka, Jessica Meyer, Patricio Molina, Paul Moravec, Nico Muhly, John Musto, Qasim Naqvi, Daniel Newman-Lessler, Paola Prestini, Shulamit Ran, David Ragland, Gity Razaz, Gyan Riley, Terry Riley, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Greg Sandow, David Sanford, Paul Schoenfeld, Jeff Scott, Juri Seo, Robert Sirota, Derrick Spiva, Augusta Read Thomas, Christopher Trapani, Liliya Ugay, Melinda Wagner, Trevor Weston, Wang Jie, Pamela Z, Judith Lang Zaimont, Patrick Zimmerli, and Samuel Zyman.

About Min Kwon - Korean-born American pianist Min Kwon excels in a versatile career that encompasses concerti, solo recitals, and chamber music appearances, while in high demand around the world as pedagogue, arts advocate, and administrator. She has held professional engagements in over 60 countries on seven continents and all 50 U.S. states, and currently is the Professor of Piano at Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University since 2002. Dr. Kwon is also the founder and director of the Center for Musical Excellence (CME), a nonprofit dedicated to mentoring and supporting gifted young musicians, and it is through CME that she has commissioned the composers for America/Beautiful. Min is a graduate of The Curtis Institute of Music and The Juilliard School, where she later served as a member of The Juilliard Council, the first alumnus to be invited to do so. Min Kwon is a Steinway Artist.

About the Center for Musical Excellence - In 2010 while on sabbatical from teaching, Dr. Kwon founded the nonprofit Center for Musical Excellence, established to provide high-caliber training and individually tailored assistance to gifted young musicians wishing to pursue a life in music. Through multiple unique opportunities provided through mentorship, grants, recording, and performances, CME inspires and guides young artists in their careers, ultimately enriching their lives and the surrounding community with the gift of music.

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originally published: 03/11/2021

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