Viet Nam News
Flautist Lê Thư Hương takes advantage of her summer holidays to stage a recital at the French Cultural Centre in Hà Nội on Saturday.
She is the first Vietnamese flautist to participate in a doctorate programme for flute performance at the University of North Texas(UNT) College of Music.
Culture Vulture interviews Hương before the show about her time in the US.
Could you tell about your studying in doctorate programme in the US?
I have just finished my first year of the Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) in Flute Performance.
I feel so lucky and honoured to be the very first Vietnamese flautist to pursue such a degree in the US. I chose to study at UNT because it is not only renowned for classical music but is also one of the top schools for jazz music in America. For example, famous American singer Norah Jones studied here previously, and many of its professors have won Grammy awards.
Studying here brings me many opportunities to learn about the different styles of music and to gain a deep understanding of new global music trends, allowing me to create more diversity in my performances. Even though I am an expert in classical music, I can also perform any other kind of music.
As an international student, I expect to pursue my DMA degree for at least four years. At school, apart from playing the flute intensively, my friends and I have to study many other courses as well. As part of the doctorate programme, we have to do a lot of reading, writing and practicing.
You are a member of the North Texas Wind Symphony at the university. How often do you perform with the symphony?
I am very proud to be a member of the North Texas Wind Symphony, the leading wind orchestra at UNT, which selects its members from amongst the most outstanding musicians at the school. We play at concerts every month, and at the end of each semester, we have to do a long and intensive CD recording session, including many musical works that are world premieres.
I was so lucky to have joined the Wind Symphony at the Midwest Clinic in December 2015 in Chicago. It is a prestigious international band/orchestra and music conference in the US, and all musicians hope to have the chance to perform there at least once. We fully believe we performed successfully for the nearly 3,000-strong audience at the concert, where 500 people had to be turned away because the hall was already full.
Do you prefer to play solo or in a group? And why?
I love to do both. When I play as a soloist, I can really play the way I want to in order to express my emotions and musical concepts based on my own character and feelings. Here, the self is much more important. But when I play in a group, the self has much less importance because each of us plays an equally important part. I have to "blend" my playing into other characters and moods. We have to find the same "voice" and concept, so we can create a nice harmony between us.
Could you reveal why you became a flautist?
It was my mom’s choice because she thought the flute was a very feminine instrument, and she loved the image of a girl playing the flute, even though the flute was not so popular at that time.
I started to play the piano at age 7 and turned to the flute at age 8. It was hard back then when very few people owned a piano at home. Many students had to go to school to practice and shared one piano. I was one of them.
Some musicians choose to play in foreign orchestras, and some of them return home after their studies abroad. What about you ?
Ten years ago I returned home after five years of studying in Europe. For musicians and artists in general, no matter where we are, as long as we have a good music career and an environment in which to do our job properly and comfortably, we are happy.
What’s next for your music career?
I will participate in several concerts with my other groups in July and August in Hà Nội before returning to the US for my second school year.
I will attend the second Vietnam Connection Music Festival 2016 (VNCMF 2016) for Vietnamese and American artists. The festival will be held in August in Hà Nội and HCM City.
In the near future, I would love to take part and stay in touch with musical activities in both Việt Nam and the US as much as possible.
You will have a recital in Hà Nội this Saturday. How will you prepare for it while you are studying abroad? How many concerts have you performed in as a soloist?
I have always loved French music, especially music from the Romance period, because I think that particular music presents many changes in mood, with beautiful melodies, generous character and fantasies. It is my favourite style because it can describe who I am through my performance and expression.
And it is even more meaningful if I play this special programme in a special space (French cultural centre L’Espace) with my three special friends and colleagues: Nguyễn Mỹ Hương on the violin, Dõan Mai Hương on the marimba, and Trần Thái Linh on the piano. We have been practicing all the pieces since last year, and hopefully, the audience will enjoy listening to them as the character of the music is very relaxing, employing beautiful melodies and popular stories. It is also my aim to bring academic music closer to the audience through a different prism, so it will not be hard to understand or difficult to listen to, as is commonly believed.
I have performed as a flute soloist eight times with many major orchestras in Việt Nam, such as the Việt Nam National Symphony Orchestra, Ha Noi Philharmonic Orchestra, Việt Nam National Opera and Ballet Orchestra and Ha Noi Strings Orchestra, and several times with the Hafnia Chamber Orchestra from Denmark.
Besides that, I have performed at hundreds of other concerts: in recitals, as a chamber musician and as an orchestra member. I am so grateful and lucky to be able to play at many solo concerts for now because it is such a privilege and honour for a classical artist to play with an orchestra, even once. -- VNS