Story by Carrie Beth Wallace
Ying Xu is a graduate conducting student at the Schwob School of Music, and is one of the top classical guitarists in the world.
As the need for social distancing amidst the global pandemic has taken its toll on artists around the world, many are searching for ways to continue creating and collaborating with one another. Xu found herself yearning for opportunities to perform again - but in a way that was safe for herself and those who would listen.
The answer? Heritage Concert Series.
Read on to discover how one graduate student is safely changing the way audiences experience classical music in our community. One performance at a time.
This image has been edited for length and clarity.
Ying Xu, conductor and guitarist. Image source
Q: Why did you start this outdoor concert series?
A: Since the quarantine began, I get up in the morning and ask myself what opportunities are available to share art and music in our community? The answer at the moment unfortunately is not very many if at all. Because I’ve dedicated my life to music, I felt a great need to create something that adds to the quality of life to this city I have come to love; I know my peers and faculty mentors feel the same was as well.
I began to think about how I might respond, initially realizing that I’m fortunate to live in Uptown Columbus in a building that has many Schwob School of Music students who I hear practicing - all day and sometimes night too! I put two and two together and decided that, with the outdoor space available here at the Heritage Apartment Complex, perhaps I could organize concerts that allow these gifted musicians to perform again, using the resources that are right here around me. This in turn could also serve a community that I believe needs to once again experience some of the most amazing sounds ever imagined.
Q: How has it inspired you during this time?
A: As a graduate assistant conductor to Prof. Paul Hostetter, early on I learned the importance of servant leadership in the paradigm of conducting. I am drawn to this idea of service to music, to musicians, and to audiences, and so by organizing this series, I have started to realize my own dream of creating something that adds beauty to our lives.
This is a step toward fulfilling my mission as an artist, and honestly, it is also a time for me to continue learning as well. Organizing anything worthwhile takes work, creativity, and passion if it is to become successful. I’m learning a lot!
Q: Who will be playing this week? Next week?
A: This week I am very excited about collaborating with Schwob faculty/world famous cello soloist Prof. Wendy Warner. We’ll be performing a gorgeous arrangement of Schindler’s List - and the best part is I’ll get to work with her as a guitarist! We will also be presenting a truly wonderful vocalist, Katherine Ambrester, who along with guitarist Carlos Arturo Bedoya, flutist Kellie Henry, bassoonist Henry Leavitt, and cellist Jonathan Simmons will perform works by Bach, Fauré, Pergolesi, Schubert, Stravinsky, and John Williams!
Next week we will feature the terrific bassist Christian Harvey, oboist Luis de León, percussionist Pablo Retana, vocalist Yunona Tabala, flutist Katie Woody, and myself on guitar. There is always variety in the series with opportunities for many to be involved.
Photos by Alex Hamm, courtesy of Ying Xu.
Q: What has been the most impactful thing about this concert series?
A: This series brings hope and positivity to our community. For the players, they have missed performing so dearly; I’d say that each performance has special meaning and inspiration for them, so the energy on the stage is palpable.
Sometimes, it’s easy for all of us to take what we do for granted, but given everything that has happened, we are all acutely aware of how precious it is to perform this music that we love.
Q: What safety measures are in place to protect audience members?
A: Safety is a major concern, of course. Face coverings and social distancing are required for all members who attend these concerts. We provide masks and have posted signs to make sure everyone attending respects the health of their neighbors. Fortunately, the acoustics are good and allow people to hear clearly from a variety of places. So far, I believe everyone has been able to enjoy these incredible performances while feeling safe.◼︎
Want a sneak peek?
And here's a link to a live performance on Performance Today by world-famous cellist, Wendy Warner: