On October 6th, Sound Impact will feature renowned musicians: clarinetist Ashley William Smith, violinist Jae Young Cosmos Lee, and pianist Konstantin Soukhovetski.
Jae Young Cosmos Lee, based in Boston, is a founding member of A Far Cry, the groundbreaking self conducted chamber orchestra and is also Assistant Concertmaster of Boston Philharmonic. Ashley William Smith has emerged as one of Australia’s most exciting young players and has been described as ‘incandescent… a masterly display of skill and insight… as an apologist for contemporary music-making, you would search hard to find this young clarinetist’s equal’ (The Age). Konstantin Soukhovetski, based in New York City, has been named the “rock star” of classical music and is the host and producer of the first-ever classical music reality show Real Pianists of the Hamptons, in addition to being winner at numerous international piano competitions.
Sound Impact is privileged to work with such insightful, sensitive and colorful musicians. Following is an interview conducted by Rebecca Jackson. Read on to learn more about our special guests.
Tell us a little about your background. How did you get into music?
AWS: For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a musician. Even though I did not come from a family that played classical music, I grew up with Burt Bacharach and Pavarotti constantly on the CD player. I still greatly admire both these musicians today.
KS: I’m from a family of artists – my parents and sister are painters. But I have always craved live performance on stage – so I had to become a performing artist. (otherwise they would have made me into a painter!)
What is your process when tackling new works?
AWS: Opening the score and sinking your teeth into new music is, for me, the hardest moment. Once I’ve stopped trying to be too precious about it and free myself to experiment a little, the music starts to take shape. I also really love working alongside the composer and trying to execute the piece with everything (and sometimes more) than what they had imagined.
KS: Well – first I get a score…then I do research and listen to as many performances of it as I can – so I have an idea of how differently/similarly artists interpret the same music. If it’s new music – I always look for the motivation of the emotion – what is behind the notes?
Why are you drawn to being a part of Sound Impact?
AWS: The people that I get to play with… I played with Polina, Rebecca, Danielle, Tiffany and Chaerim Smith earlier this year and realised how lucky I am to play with such incredible musicians. It is one of the highlights of my year to come back to D.C again.
JYCL: I cherish the idea that music & the musicians who play it can be a catalyst in making change and awareness to the world at large of the issues of poverty, inequality, war, disease & hunger. And each of the members of Sound Impact understands this at the heart of its mission. It is a powerful stance to be the change that we seek & to be a part of something that is larger than ourselves to help make our world a better place, which is an idea that is completely empowering and so badly needed in our present society.
KS: My dear friends and colleagues and beautiful music we get to make together!
Who has been your most influential musical hero?
AWS: Australian violinist William Hennessey has been a really important mentor to me, and I always play for him whenever I am in Melbourne. He gave me the confidence to throw myself into a performing career, and showed me that life experience is the most important ingredient to becoming a musician. In terms of a musical idol, Cecilia Bartoli ticks every box for me. She is breath taking in every way: technically and musically.
KS: Renee Fleming, Arthur Rubinstein, & my teacher, Jerome Lowenthal
Why is music important for our world?
AWS: I honestly believe that music allows us to experience our emotions and causes us to become more compassionate people. A Beethoven Symphony reminds us that the universe is beyond our comprehension, yet somehow is extremely empowering. It reminds us to think beyond ourselves.
JYCL: Music has the energy to heal the wounded, console broken hearts, maximize excitement, make us reflect, give us goose bumps, enlighten the soul & remind us how beautiful life can be.
KS: It reminds us of beauty of the human condition – music is man -made and sublime! Music tends to speak to the heart bypassing the mind – thus it brings out the best in us. It puts us in touch with our true humanity.
If you think of your favorite teacher, what made them a great teacher?
AWS: They were honest, devoted an enormous amount of time, and were (most importantly) inspiring.
JYCL: My favorite teacher was actually a pianist. Perhaps because of that reason, he often focused on serving what is in the score more truthfully & encouraged me to find creative & imaginative ways to make that possible as an instrumentalist. He urged me to always look at the bigger picture & not get caught up on the small things, but with it, he fortified my integrity as a musician and an artist.
KS: Being a great performer and always being inspirational. Never berate your student!
Do you play any other instruments?
AWS: Last year I started singing lessons. It turns out that I have a unique voice type known as a heldentenor. Singing has taught me an enormous amount about clarinet playing.
JYCL: I studied piano for one year after 4 years of already playing the violin when we moved back to Korea because my parents couldn’t find me a suitable violin teacher at the town we moved to. But that was it. During our second year back, they found me a good teacher & I stopped playing the piano. Then when I tried picking it back up again in college as a requirement for non-majors, I was utterly horrible at it.. Later years of high school & college, I got into mixing beats & DJ’ing, which I was obsessed with for 5years or so, but eventually gave it up to focus more on playing the violin. This I suppose leaves my only other instrument currently to be my voice. I love to sing.
KS: No – piano is….a handful! But I act, produce, direct and host Reality TV!
What is the favorite place you have visited?
AWS: Too many places are my favourite. I adore living in the USA and I have many favourite places here. New York and Seattle are two cities I adore. However, my favourite city in the world is Melbourne: my closest friends live there and the coffee and food is off-the-scale in comparison to anywhere I have visited in the world. The most beautiful city I know is my home town of Perth in Western Australia. Perth has over 300 days of sunshine each year and possibly the best beaches in the world. I feel incredibly privileged to live in two such beautiful countries.
JYCL: Boulder, Colorado. I absolutely adore the Rocky Mountains. The slow rising but jaggedly charaterful eastern foothills of the Rockies in Boulder, which are called the Flat Irons are absolutely magnificent. Boulder has a special energy, the people there are relaxed & fun, over 300 days of sunshine a year and it’s just an all around great place to live.
KS: My favorite place is home – Manhattan! But my second favorite place is the beach – whatever the beautiful location: The Hamptons, South Africa, France…I love ocean and sand.
Who is your favorite visual artist and why?
AWS: That is a tough question. The only way to answer this would be to say that every time I walk into the waterlily room at MoMA I am left speechless. Monet’s work is breathtakingly beautiful. Every few months I go to MoMA on my own and sit in this room for an hour or so. Actually… That might be my favourite place.
JYCL: I’m a huge fan of the visual arts in general & honestly I have way too many favorite artists encompassing all different periods & regions. But notably the paintings of the French artist, Georges Seurat, I never get tired of. He was a big part in cultivating the technique of “pointillism” & I’ve always been fascinated by it. The idea of little dots making up a bigger picture during the period he lived in just seems so ahead of his time & inventive, and his paintings are original & unforgettable.
KS: It’s hard to choose as I have 3 – my parents and my sister! 😉 I also like Salvador Dali (for his visionary sense of humor) and Pissarro for his rainy Paris.
Come hear Konstantin Soukhovetski, Ashley William Smith, and Jae Young Cosmos Lee in action along with Danielle Cho, Tiffany Richardson, and Rebecca Jackson for the debut performance of Sound Impact. Please visit http://www.thesoundimpact.org for more details.