Changing classical music, one friend at a time
Having been a part of the Davis community his whole life, cellist Eungee Cho felt it was necessary to bring Mellon Music Festival to his hometown. Cho, who lives and breathes classical music, believes that it has the power to ignite the community through his festival. Shows will take place this weekend, May 25 to 27, with shows at the John Natsoulas Gallery, RepowerYolo and the Richard Brunelle Performance Hall.
“Classical music has this elitist stereotype that goes along with it,” Cho said. “We actually feel that there’s so much more to classical music, so we geared the programs to be accessible, but still very strongly classical. For example, on the first program, we have this composer who wrote a piano trio that’s Russian classic and jazz-inspired.”
Mellon Music Festival aims to bring classical music to a wide audience and change the negative stereotypes attached to it. Moreover, there is a social mission included as well. For example, by including a piece composed by a female composer in the program, the festival brings awareness to strong women in classical music, which is typically a male-dominated genre.
The goal is to be inclusive and create relationships with the audience. Cho thought it was best to have the festival in Davis because he remembers the city as being heavily community-oriented and saturated with culture. He felt it was the perfect place to bring high-quality and affordable classical music performances.
“Since moving to Boston, I’ve met a lot of musicians who have the same vision that I have, so I really wanted to gather these musicians in one place — my hometown — and expose Davis to how amazing classical music can be,” Cho said. “There are no geographical limits to what classical music can achieve.”
According to Cho, his musical journey was not something he originally planned on. It was as if music chose him.
“I started piano just like any other Asian child who gets thrown into it at a very young age regardless of interest,” Cho said. “Then I discovered the cello a few years later. Like many people, I wanted to go to university, but in my senior year, I started to realize how much classical music has changed my life and how much power I feel like I have when I immerse myself in it. I really felt like I was making a difference in the world more so than, personally, doing other things.”
Cho entered USC with medical school in mind. However, his devotion to music altered his life in a way that he did not expect.
“I’ve been doing all the rotations, shadowing and internships during my four years of college, but at the same time, I would do a lot of performance on the side and kind of fell in love with it,” Cho said. “I put any thoughts about medical school in the backburner and really just dedicated everything to music.”
Through generous sponsors, friendships and connections, Mellon Music Festival was able to gather a group of talented musicians and host this event with affordable prices. Flutist Ieseul Kim met Cho at USC as friends, but they never got the opportunity to play music together. Now, they are able to showcase their passion and talents in Mellon Music.
“Eunghee and I met at USC and studied together,” Kim said. “For some reason we never played at the same time together, but we’re very good friends and colleagues. Whenever we grabbed coffee, we’d talk about music things. He told me he was having a festival and asked me to play. Whenever he asks me to do something, I always say yes because he’s such a good musician as well. It’s my honor to be a part of Mellon Music Festival.”
Classical music is powerful, according to Cho, but also deeply ingrained in each musician’s personal life. Like Cho, violinist Tanja Roos has had a deep bond with music since childhood. Growing up in London with a family of musicians, it felt natural for her to dive into the art as well.
“My grandmother was a famous violinist and played numerous concerts,” Roos said. “I remember distinctly going to her concert when I was about 3 and being absolutely blown away. Ever since then, I pretty much only wanted to be a musician. At 15, I wanted to expand my musical journey and auditioned for a violin teacher in Vienna named Boris Kuschnir. I moved to Vienna without my parents to study with him, which was daunting but incredibly exciting. I remember at the time thinking that this was the first step to truly building character, and that it did.”
Ultimately, the Mellon Music Festival is about building friendships with musicians and audience members. Inspired by “The Lord of the Rings,” Cho named the music festival after the Elvish word for friend, “mellon.”
“‘Lord of the Rings’ was my life basically growing up, and I thought this friendship theme was so appropriate,” Cho said. “We wanted people to come, mingle and build friendships. We don’t want there to be a barrier between the performers and the audience.”
Purchase your tickets for Mellon Music Festival via its website.
Written by: Becky Lee — firstname.lastname@example.org