Wonny Song: "A great musician in 2018 is a great entrepreneur."Interview
Montréal-based pianist Wonny Song is gearing up for his upcoming Mooredale Concerts series performance on December 2, 3:15pm, with violinist Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu and violist Wei-Yang Andy Lin. That same afternoon at 1:15pm, the trio will also perform Music & Truffles KIDS, a modified, condensed version of their programme for young audiences.
The group is dubbed the Artistic Directors Trio, since all three players count leadership roles among their multi-faceted careers; Lin is Artistic Director and co-founder of the New Asia Chamber Music Society, Wu is an artistic partner with the Da Camera Society and assistant director of the New Asia Chamber Music Society, and Song is Artistic and Executive Director of Orford Music.
We spoke with Song about being a chamber pianist, balancing creativity with administration, and the joy of overseeing one of the classical music world’s most prestigious academies.
Do you have any favourite items on your upcoming programme for Mooredale Concerts? How will the programme differ from your concert for young audiences, happening the same day?
I look forward to this program with Andy and Cindy. They are both marvellous musicians and I can’t wait to present them to our public. I met Andy for the first time in Busan, South Korea, as he was one of the soloists in the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante, performing with the Orford Music orchestra in a concert. It was our first international tour for the orchestra, and I remember vividly his mature and profound music making. He is also an entrepreneur and is artistic director and co-founder of the New Asia Chamber Music Society, and he is pro-active in finding opportunities for musicians he believes in. I respect that immensely.
Our program is very eclectic, treading from an exquisite, beautiful Mozart trio to a Chinese erhu and piano duo! We are really embracing the colours of this unusual combination of instruments through the repertoire, and wanted the audience to experience a really unique concert. For the Music and Truffles concerts, we are adapting our concert repertoire for our young concert goers. We will be performing small excerpts of the works, and engaging in a lively conversation about music with host Joanna Kellam.
What are some challenges that are unique to the piano when playing chamber music?
Most concert pianos are 7 to 9 feet long; they are incredible instruments with a sound projection to satisfy a 2000-seat hall. The biggest risk is the piano overpowering my fellow colleagues when playing in trio. I do my utmost to have an ear to analyze the balance with the other instruments, while keeping my other ear on my own piano part, which almost always has a plethora of notes.
How do you balance your work as a pianist with your Artistic Director duties?
I actually find being a pianist complements my duties as Artistic Director, as there are insights from both perpectives that can help both duties. But I do admit that it is sometimes difficult to juggle between the two “jobs”, to keep a balance in life. Yet I have always been one to be fuelled by challenges. It is so hard for me to say no to an opportunity, even if that means less sleep and working in the weekends.
What do you most enjoy about your work as Artistic Director of Orford? What do the participants find so attractive about spending a summer there?
It is being in a position to help the next generation of artists. I am so energized to see the passion, drive, and commitment of our young musicians. It is a always a challenge to find effective, novel ways to propel them to a successful career. But it does not deter me from creating new projects towards that goal.
Orford Music has been in existence for over 67 years. I believe the secret of its longevity has been the unique 1-on-1 mentorship bond between student and professor. In fact, this is where I met as a young student one of my own mentors for the first time, Anton Kuerti, who was Artistic Director of the Mooredale series from 2007-14. It truly is a magical place; Orford Music creates lasting professional relationships that truly shape a musician’s future.
What do you know now about the musician’s career that you wish you knew at the start of your post-secondary studies?
A great musician in 2018 is a great entrepreneur. They have to be proficient in so many different areas nowadays. My advice is to always be on the look out for mentors who can guide you in your career.
Wonny Song performs with Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu and Wei-Yang Andy Lin as part of the Mooredale Concerts series on December 2, 3:15pm at Walter Hall; their complementary kids’ concert, Music & Truffles happens the same day at 1:15pm. For details and ticket information, click here.