2016-03-18 / Ticket

Beneath the Music: Xiaoxiao Du, violin

BY CASEY OAKES
Bowdoin International Music Festival


VIOLINIST Xiaoxiao Du. 
CONTRIBUTED IMAGE VIOLINIST Xiaoxiao Du. CONTRIBUTED IMAGE In the past few weeks we’ve spoken with a vast array of musicians, from pianists to violinists, cellists to double bassists. We’ve talked with participants from more than four continents. In that time we’ve learned a lot; such as the amount of love and care these individuals have for their craft and that being a musician isn’t always an easy endeavor, but that the rewards always outweigh the costs. This week we continue our exploration with an in-depth discussion with violinist Xiaoxiao Du.

Du is an enthusiastic chamber and orchestral musician. She actively plays in duo, trio, quartet and other chamber ensembles. In summer 2015, she attended the prestigious Bowdoin International Music Festival as a scholarship recipient. Ms. Du currently serves as the 2015- 2016 Odyssey Performance Fellow for the Odyssey Chamber Music Series in Columbia, MO.

Bowdoin International Music Festival: What are some of your earliest musical memories?

Xiaoxiao Du: I had a cassette tape of The Sound of Music that I listened to so many times that I can sing almost every line, and I used to jump up and down on my bed dancing to My Fair Lady and Singin’ in the Rain. At the town theatre my parents and I saw Tchaikovsky ballets, chamber concerts from Sweden, and the world tour of Cats (the musical). We would follow these events with a family meal at Kentucky Fried Chicken.

BIMF: What is the one greatest musical experience of your life?

XD: BIMF! It may sound trite, but truly and sincerely, the Festival was one of the greatest and most rewarding musical experiences of my life. BIMF embraces the artistry of all the wonderful coaches and artists, has a warm, friendly, and hardworking staff, and it gave me the opportunity to study with inspiring peer musicians. The community concerts were heartwarming experiences because the people from the community were so supportive and showed that they shared our love for music. I was very fortunate to be an RA at BIMF because I got to know all of my residents and learned about their cultures and their musical journeys growing up. I found we had many things in common beyond music. A summer at BIMF, to me, represents the beautiful and pure art of seeking and creating music with the benefit of making friends. In addition to music Brunswick has a lot to offer, including two wonderful things — lighthouses and lobster rolls!

BIMF: Is there any musician who truly inspires you?

XD: I have been touched by great names such as Perlman, Heifeitz and Oistrakh, I have been encouraged by my wonderful professors, fellow classmates, and colleagues and I have been moved by the artistry of violin making. I will pick a particular piece though: Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35. It is my family’s favorite piece and the theme is just — healing. It is a milestone, and sunshine to a violinist and to all people.

BIMF: What drives you to work hard? What are your dreams?

XD: The great artists and their talent, the love and support from my family and teachers, festivals like BIMF, the cupcakes in rehearsal breaks, the laughter and smiles when turning pages or cueing and the orange center stage light all make me feel so grateful and drive me to work hard.

I dream of constantly improving as a pianist, wearing pretty performance dresses, continuing to play and perform and having more opportunities to attend wonderful festivals such as BIMF. One of my greatest dreams is to find a way to combine my engineering training and musical talents.

BIMF: What are you most proud of ?

XD: I am proud that I never stopped playing violin.

All through my childhood, through my teenage years, and through my three engineering degrees, I never stopped playing. It is sometimes hard when “stuff” gets busy. I had quite a few musician friends who stopped playing. I feel extremely fortunate and proud that my family, teachers, and friends supported and encouraged me to persevere. As a result, I am still moving forward on this extremely satisfying, albeit consuming, musical journey.

BIMF: What are your career goals and how have you used the Festival as a spring board to accomplish those goals?

XD: I am currently pursuing a doctorate in engineering; I would like to find a way to utilize both my engineering and musical training. I have been playing violin since I was three and music has become a part of my life. I try to find every opportunity to connect and reconnect to my musical self. The festival gave me one of the most rewarding and enjoyable musical experiences I’ve ever had.

BIMF: Why do you feel passionately about playing chamber music?

XD: Teamwork. Chamber music is about teamwork between players, between players and coaches and between players and the audience. It is such a pleasure to work closely with a group that shares the same passion and ambition to make great chamber music. It’s most enjoyable when minds connect and we experience the same emotions — laughter, tears — and work together to forge a sonic world and convey that sonic world to the audience.

BIMF: If you were an animal what would you be and why?

XD: A monkey! Monkeys in Chinese culture symbolize wit, intelligence, curiosity, and charm. Besides, I like bananas!

BIMF: What advice would you offer to an aspiring violinist?

XD: Never stop playing. Pirastro Evah Pirazzi has a saying on its package, “I'm so happy I can't stop playing!” I love that saying.

BIMF: What’s one thought you want to leave us with?

XD: In high school my physics teacher asked me to bring in my violin and tuning fork to demonstrate to the whole class the physics of sound and waves—art and science are never apart and never should be.

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