North Texas Daily

Doctoral student hosts musicians from Vietnam

Doctoral student hosts musicians from Vietnam

Doctoral student hosts musicians from Vietnam
February 23
23:33 2015

Samantha McDonald / Senior Staff Writer

As a young musician in Vietnam, Chuong Vu had a dream.

His violin teacher had just returned after graduating from the Moscow Conservatory of Music, widely considered one of the most prestigious music universities in the world, and Vu increasingly found himself yearning for the same experience.

Years later, the doctoral student in violin performance has started a collaboration between Vietnamese and UNT faculty and students. While a May 2014 event invited UNT musicians to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Wednesday night’s 8 p.m. chamber concert will bring Korean-Vietnamese pianist Eun Young Joo to Voertman Hall.

“I was very inspired by my own experience, and I would like for younger generations of classical musicians in Vietnam to have a chance to see and experience these things,” Vu said.

Joo will be accompanied by six students from the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music, where she is a piano professor. They are scheduled to participate in classes taught by UNT piano faculty members and attend College of Music concerts.


Eun Young Loo lectures on Heinrich Neuhaus’ book, The Art of Piano Playing. Loo considers Neuhaus’ text to be her musical Bible.

The performance will include Vu, fellow doctoral student and cellist Kyungseu Dominic Na and faculty members Felix Olschofka and Daphne Gerling. Vu said getting Vietnamese musicians to visit and play alongside College of Music professors and students can boost the university’s international reputation.

“For UNT, it’s good for recruitment because we expose our name to other countries so we can attract more students,” Vu said. “They will [also] have a chance to see the ways UNT faculty teach and perform.”

Making connections

When Vu first approached Gerling almost two years ago, he invited her to Vietnam to show him his country. She initially thought, like most students, his proposal would be simply that – a proposal – and didn’t expect more than just words.

A few months later, Gerling was in Vietnam playing a concert tour with other UNT faculty members and students.

“He’s an incredibly enterprising person,” Gerling said. “He has a really remarkable ability to create these big projects and really bring them together.”

Joo, who remembers Vu attending one of her past concerts, said he has many musician friends in Ho Chi Minh City, so when he contacted her about his plan to bring Vietnamese performers to UNT, she immediately understood the importance of the event and accepted the invitation.

“We want to make friends and for students, they can broaden their horizons,” Joo said. “I hope to continue this project. I want students to come here and experience these circumstances.”

A young prodigy

When Vu was five years old, his father brought home a violin.

Vu said this marked the beginning of his academic career in violin, with which he said he fell in love through constant practice. His aspiration, like most young musicians, was to win a competition similar to Vietnamese classical pianist Dang Thai Son, who became the first Asian pianist to earn the gold medal at the 1980 International Chopin Piano Competition.

Vu was one step closer to his goal when he was accepted to the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music at the age of seven. He said he saw a future at the Moscow Conservatory of Music but received troubling news in 1989 when the Soviet Union was approaching its collapse.

“I was about to be picked [for the Moscow Conservatory], but the Soviet Union broke up and didn’t honor those contracts with Vietnam anymore,” Vu said. “My family decided that since I wouldn’t be able to go to the Soviet Union, they were going to go to the States.”

After finishing high school in Vietnam, Vu left for the U.S. He completed his bachelor’s and master’s degree at the University of Houston and moved to UNT under the tutelage of violinist Emanuel Borok, the former concertmaster for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

This spring marks Vu’s final semester as a doctoral student. Although he plans to continue performing after his studies, Vu said teaching is another personal ambition.

“My dream would be to come back to Vietnam every year – maybe once or twice – to give master classes at the conservatories,” he said. “I would like to educate the classical musicians there, particularly violinists.”

The impact on learning

Wednesday’s concert will focus on the intersection of cultures from around the world. Vu is a Vietnamese violinist, Olschofka is a German violinist and Gurling is a Brazilian violist. On the other hand, Joo and Na, both of whom are originally from Korea, live in Vietnam and the U.S., respectively.

“It’s a very specific collaboration because we have so many different nations in this event,” Olschofka said. “There are so many languages and so many countries involved, but the nice thing is we have one universal language, which is music.”

Last year, Olschofka, Gerling and two doctoral students spent 18 days in the summer teaching and performing in the Vietnam National Academy of Music in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory and Ho Chi Minh City Opera House. This year, Joo and her students will devote 10 days to master classes and lectures at UNT.

“It was really a lot of work,” Joo said. “They are all stuck in Vietnam with no chance to see the developed country. For them, this is a really amazing opportunity to see what’s going on here.”

Joo said the concert will enhance the already established connection between Vietnamese and U.S. musicians. This relationship will see more support in August when Vu and the early music faculty are scheduled to perform as one of the main acts at the 2015 Autumn Melodies Music Festival in Vietnam.

“The nice thing about these trips is that it shrinks our musical world. It brings us all closer,” Gerling said. “It’s so meaningful as an artistic legacy that we’re willing to travel to other countries to interact about it.”

Vu said he hopes to make the collaboration an ongoing opportunity and has already arranged a tour with UNT Concert Orchestra conductor Clay Couturiaux in May. The two will perform with the Hanoi Philharmonic Orchestra, Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra and Saigon Philharmonic Orchestra – three of the four top orchestras in Vietnam.

“We learn so much just from being in a different country,” Gerling said. “You start learning all the details of the culture, and it becomes so much more real to you how rich the world is.”

Featured Image: Eun Young Loo performs for UNT students during her lecture. Loo played excerpts from several composers including Tchaikovsky, Chopin,and Mozart. Photos by Meagan Sullivan – Staff Photographer

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  1. twitter ytequoctevn
    twitter ytequoctevn August 02, 13:35

    Thanks for finally talking about >Doctoral student hosts musicians from Vietnam – North
    Texas Daily <Liked it!

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