Interviewing with a violin virtuoso, Sarah Chang, was very adventurous. Our team had to go through security guards to get into the backstage, and only 30 minutes were given for an interview in between her rehearsals with Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Musicians, in general, are known to get very sensitive before their performances; however Sarah greeted us with the warmest smile and answered our questions enthusiastically. She was a modest, charming, and beautiful woman addressing herself as an ordinary person who just loves playing violin so much despite her world renowned status as a violinist. We were even able to engage in typical ‘girl talk’ with her and felt that she was at some level just like us, with her love for dresses and shoes. We would really like to thank Sarah Chang again for having an interview with us despite her hectic schedule.
Sarah Chang on leadership
In 2006, I was honoured to be chosen as one of the top 20 women on leadership by NewsWeek. I do not know the exact reasons as to why I was selected at that time; what I do know is that I was recognized by NewsWeek as a young, American female musical ambassador who addressed and overcame challenges in my own way.
Music is my passion and I love being a musical ambassador; I consider this as being a leader in this industry. As a musician, whenever I get a chance to visit Korea, I attend an orphanage to play music for the children and listen to their performances. I am always struck by the unbelievable raw musical talent they all possess and cannot help but feel this overwhelming sense of joy from their passion for music. On one occasion while I was touring in Korea, I invited the children to play during my encore performance on my show. The experience was enlightening – we had a great time on stage and evidently it was very well received by the audience. This is what being a musician is all about.
Through this experience, I truly hope that the children continue to grow their passion for music and learn to overcome challenges in the future by reflecting on this great accomplishment. I also sincerely hope that musicians will work towards exposing and educating music and arts to the general public, as I believe that children are essential part of people’s lives.
In February 2011, I was involved in the US Musical Ambassador program in Serbia. Our focus was to provide musical education for children. I would play my music, run Q&A sessions, and hold master classes. This experience was a paradigm shift for me in a way that I was able to envision a greater scale. Typically, during my tour, I would do my rehearsals, accept a certain amount of interviews with the new media and accept concert requests; this cycle would then just be repeated at different locations. This pattern allowed me to stay focused, but such strict procedure made me feel very confined and limited. Through this program in Serbia and the outreach work that it involved, I had the opportunity to learn the different musical education styles. It was very exciting to see the diverse nature of musical backgrounds and education, and the exposure that the children received from them.
The music industry itself as a musician and challenges faced
My passion lies working in the classical music industry. I believe it is one of the most honest professions; the only thing that matters is the quality of the music they play, regardless of the performer’s gender or ethnicity. For the orchestra industry, there are “closed-curtain auditions”. This means that the judges doing the evaluations cannot see you; instead, you are evaluated solely on your talent, supported by countless hours of practice and how effectively you could deliver the message from the tone and theme of the music being performed.
One of the difficult aspects of preparing for a show is the common nature of being frustrated or unsatisfied during rehearsals. Usually, there are significant changes made between the first and second rehearsals. The first rehearsal involves working and fixing the details, while the second is trying to accomplish perfection. If conflicts ever arise with the conductor regarding certain ideas or musical opinions of the upcoming performance, I must communicate meticulously as a professional, both effectively and emotionally to arrive at an agreement. There were a few occasions when after the first rehearsal, I immediately contacted the management to notify them that I may have to cancel the show, due to difficulty in reaching common grounds with the conductor. Such incidents arise when the situation reaches a point where I would rather not perform at all than feel slightly dissatisfied or uncomfortable.
Definition of success
I have always been told and remembered that success is a state of mind; it is about having the confidence to develop that state of mind. For me, this confidence is achieved solely through hard work. With such efforts, along with having the right people to provide guidance and support through challenges, the confidence level will gradually rise to help you become strong enough push for success. Unfortunately, the more successful you are, the harder people try to chip away at you; your ability to withstand constant criticism and pressure will be tested. Every time this occurs, I try to use it to my advantage to make myself stronger. This is easier said than done, but I believe that what defines you is not how hard you fall but how quickly you can get back up and continue to pursue your goals. Furthermore, I have been working with the same people for the last 20 years. Their support and encouragement have helped me to get where I am today.
Advice for future musicians
Passion. If you are a musician without passion, you will be miserable. A miserable musician and performer cannot amaze the audience. This is especially the case if your dream is to have a soloist role. As a soloist, you are constantly on the move physically and under attack by critics. This is difficult when you love being around your friends and family, as your life will involve continuous separations from them. You just have to love being on stage; you must have the desire to get on that stage and play your heart out, not to impress anyone but simply because that is what you love to do.
About Sarah Chang
1989 – Debuted with New York Philharmonic at age of 8
1992 – Awarded Avery Fisher Career Grant
1993 – Awarded Gramophone Magazine Young Artist of the Year (1993)
1993 – Awarded Newcomer of the Year for "Echo" (Germany)
1993 – Awarded Nan Pa (South Korea)
1994 – Awarded Newcomer of the Year at the International Classical Music Awards
1999 – Awarded Avery Fisher Prize
2004 – Awarded Internazionale Accademia Musicale Chigiana Award in Siena, Italy
2004 – Awarded Hollywood Bowl's Hall of Fame
2006 – one of 20 Top Women in Newsweek Magazine’s “Women and Leadership, 20 Powerful Women Take Charge”
2006 – The Torino Winter Olympics Torch Carrier
2008 – Young Global Leader by World Economic Forum
2011 – State Department Special Cultural Envoy and Cultural ambassador
More about Sarah Chang : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Chang
Interview Date : April 1, 2011
Interviewers: Stella Chun, Alice Kim, Sierra Lee
Editors: Stella Chun, Chris Lee, Jason Park
*All photos have been approved by Sarah Chang
The views expressed in the interviews are not necessarily reflective of JoinTheLeaders' opinion.