• June 6, 2023

Artist Profile: Amy Yang

Artist Profile: Amy Yang

Artist Profile: Amy Yang 1024 683 Welcome to Kingston Chamber Music Festival | Kingston Chamber Music Festival

Recognized as a “jaw-dropping pianist who steals the show…with effortless finesse” (Washington Post), Amy Yang, Associate Dean of Piano Studies and Artistic Initiatives at Curtis Institute of Music, will make her debut on a Kingston Chamber Music Festival stage this summer. Her origin story begins in a small apartment in China where a piano felt like another member of the family – it was, after all, given prime real estate in their one work-, bed-, and living-room apartment. “The intimacy of these spaces meant that I grew up with the constant flow of students coming to our home for piano lessons with my father or voice lessons with my mother,” she says. “I suppose the hard work of these students spurred my interest to imitate their work at an early age. But, looking back, perhaps it is the hard work of my parents that I tried to emulate. My father loves telling the story of my hauling a stepping stool to the piano to correct his student’s wrong note as the student warmed up. It’s a marvel that this is still something I do; but, only metaphorical stepping stools required and tools of listening and directing with compassion have been hopefully acquired through the years!”

Mr. Hester’s voice

As she grew up and faced immense transitions and challenges, music helped Yang find herself – both anchoring and freeing her. “When I emigrated from China at age 11, the configuration of the tight living space followed us as we landed in an apartment complex in Houston that was equally populated by other families of immigrants from all over the world,” she says. “In this new country, I’d tag along with my father to his school, the University of Houston, and do my homework. The music resonating in the halls moved me.” After hearing a concert by piano faculty member Timothy Hester, Yang proclaimed that she wanted to study piano with him. “Mr. Hester single-handedly changed the direction of my life at a time when I felt culturally unrelated and confused by the challenges of assimilation,” she says. “The joyful wonder of music that he shared with me provided an extraordinary sense of belonging and safety. This portal opened up a space for endless delight in exploration. Finally, I felt free, however foreign the world was that encircled me.” And Mr. Hester’s influence didn’t end in Yang’s childhood. “To this day, I hear Mr. Hester’s voice pointing out the color, sensuality, and power of the score as I endeavor to share what I hear,” Yang adds. “The depth of his generosity (refusing to take payment for lessons for my six years of studying with him) shows just how powerful love can be in its truest form. Most of all, I believe that his voice — of nobility, generosity, and compassion — is the greatest lesson. It is my privilege and hope to pass down this gift of love for the art form to all who are willing to be moved by the music, in order to find themselves within this world.”

Yang at Music from Angel Fire, NM. Photo by Bernard Mindich.

Noble artistry

As a performer, teacher, administrator, and recording artist, Yang’s life revolves around music. These roles complement each other as they exercise different aspects of her artistry and provide invaluable ways to impact others: she is now able to be the Mr. Hester for her own students and for audiences who experience her musicianship, fueling the same profound appreciation for the art form. “I’m extremely lucky to be given the opportunities to experience life through these multidimensional perspectives,” she says of her different professional endeavors. “It is something that I marvel at each day, and this feeling of awe opens up the channels for me to listen, first and foremost, and then to serve the voices that move within these realms. I believe that in any role, the greatest leadership I can impart is through the act of service. There is nothing more interesting to me than the noble artistry of empowering – or daring – someone towards more courageous art- and life-making. I believe that much of our artistic and human potential is yet to be released. My roles on stage, at school, or at home involve my quest to liberate those around me, whether it involves the medium of music (or simply laughter!) to be more passionately themselves. Part of me feels fulfilled in these ways, and music takes care of the rest.”

The stellar roster

On Wednesday, August 2, and Friday, August 4, Yang’s KCMF debut performances invite our audience to experience her finesse through an exquisite range of selections – from Bach’s Gamba Sonata No. 3 in G minor for Viola da gamba and Keyboard to Schubert’s Sonata for Piano Four Hands in C Major, D. 812. “I am equally looking forward to the great repertoire chosen by [KCMF Artistic Director] Natalie Zhu as I am by the stellar roster of humans and musicians with whom to venture,” Yang says. “I look forward to the unique experience of sharing these discoveries as I myself discover the Festival and its community of endearing supporters for the first time. I am indebted to Natalie and everyone on Team Kingston for their warm leadership and support for having me there.” The August 2nd concert will also include Grammy-winning guitarist Jason Vieaux, legendary clarinetist David Shifrin, and some of our returning festival favorites – violinists Jasmine Lin and Zachary DePue, cellists Yegor Dyachkov and Priscilla Lee, and violist Burchard Tang. The Friday, August 4th concert titled “One of A Kind” will feature creative new styles of arranging instruments, as well as the collaborative expertise of Zhu and Yang on the Schubert piece. 

Yang after a performance of Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto with Curtis Symphony Orchestra lead by Osmo Vänskä at Verizon Hall of Kimmel Center, April, 2023. Photo by David DeKalb.

Communal ecstasy 

As Yang continues to move people with her music – and continues to open the portal for others to find themselves and delight in exploration – she uncovers more and more to cherish: from the act of “sharing the love of music with music-makers and music-lovers across all situations and walks of life” to “feeling unlimited adoration for the delicious number of musicians with whom I bond over puns, word play, poetry, nature and cuisine.” These meaningful interactions with other people are not simply a perk of another day at the office when you’re a musician, teacher, or administrator, but are illustrative of the power of this art form: chamber music is not simply a fulfilling activity or career, but a catalyst for substantive social change. “Any collaborative opportunity for people to strive towards a collective good can change the direction of a culture,” she says, “The constructive setup of chamber music, where individual voices learn to listen, respect and ultimately represent a micro-universe of change, can be hugely powerful. One must stand up for all voices within the ensemble; one must uplift each other to give the composer’s voice a chance to live through our humanity. At its ripest form it is a kind of communal ecstasy. It is simply addictive. There’s no going back once you’ve been ‘afflicted’!”