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About the Author
Ken Smith currently divides his time between New York (where he writes for Gramophone magazine) and Hong Kong (where he serves as the Asian–performing arts critic for the Financial Times). He is Co–Music Director of the recordings Dong Folk Songs and Miao Music for China's MediaFusion Group, and he won an ASCAP–Deems Taylor Award in 2008 for his liner notes to Gil Shaham's recording of The Butterfly Lovers Concerto for Violin. Ken is also the author of Fate! Luck! Chance!, published in 2008 by Chronicle Books.

Ancient Paths, Modern Voices Blog

Not all Stars

There are times when musical life in China feels like an ongoing Class of 1978 reunion; that was the Central Conservatory graduating class that stood Chinese music on its head. The Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra, for one, opened its season on September 13 with world premieres by ‘78 grads Guo Wenjing, Zhou Long and Chen Yi, conducted by Long Yu. Tan Dun arrived in town later that night.
Circulating a third-year class photo has generated almost as much excitement among the composers as would a new commission.

When it comes to keeping in touch, few class members have been as diligent as Chen Yi and Liu Sola, who offered the photo to Carnegie Hall. With the help of those two women, we were able to locate most of the class. Roll your cursor over the faces and you can find out what these Bright Young Things have done with their lives.

Click to enlarge

Some became internationally famous; others wrote fine music that no one has heard outside of China. Quite a few became teachers. Some even became music critics. Yin Ganwei, after graduate studies at UC San Diego, turned to finance and became a vice president at Merrill Lynch.

Their stories range from the quirky (check out tai chi master Wang Yanji’s YouTube videos of Bach fugues and martial arts) to the tragic, such as Sun Yi’s death in an automobile accident in 1993. Perhaps saddest of all is the disappearance of Lin Dehong, who received the highest score on the Central Conservatory’s entrance exam but lost all contact with his classmates in the late 1980s. Calls to his extended family in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, and Shanghai have turned up nothing. If anyone knows his whereabouts, please contact Carnegie Hall. We are all very curious.

Posted by Ken Smith

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