SEVEN NEC STUDENTS AND ALUMNI SHARE THEIR INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCES
CHINA | Hui Weng, guzheng
My name is Hui Weng and I am from China. After practicing the Chinese zither (Guzheng) for 20 years, I’m seeking a breakthrough in my personal style and, more importantly, to reimagine this music. To achieve this, I’m studying Guzheng in the Contemporary Improvisation department at NEC, which is a wholly new attempt. Through this, I hope to achieve mastery of my skills so that I can steer the music of the Guzheng to modern practice. From my Boston solo concert, “Twin Flower,” I’ve learned that the Guzheng can be quite popular and welcome on the American stage. I named the concert after the plant of the same name, in which two flowers blossom from one stem. I hope that Guzheng music can be like that, with one flower rooted in China and the other developing in the US. Although my instrument is a traditional Chinese instrument, I believe that it will still blossom with beautiful music in its new environment. Music is a language that knows no boundaries, and art and culture exchanges take place every single minute. Sure, Chinese culture is very different from American culture, but I love these differences because they can create amazing things in music. I can develop my own personal style by combining these great differences. Because of the guidance of Dr. Hankus Netsky and my other mentors at NEC, I cherish my time here. At this school, I receive beautiful ideas, meet with musicians from all over the world, and exchange powerful music.
CHILE | Sergio Muñoz, viola
Hometown? Santiago, Chile. What do you miss most about home? The food! In Chile, we’re lucky to get relatively cheap good produce most of the year, so it’s not too hard to eat balanced and healthy. I was raised eating well and got used to that. Also, the subway in Santiago is BEAUTIFUL, clean, and the staff is friendly. Why did you want to come to the US? A serious appreciation for classical music is only starting to develop in Chile. The funding, facilities, variety of institutions to study music, and access to great artists-teachers that exist in the US is something you can’t get in Chile. The main reason for me to come here was my current studio teacher, Kim Kashkashian. Since I was little, I always heard of Ms. Kashkashian as some unreachable viola superstar. When I found out she was a real person who taught at NEC, I said to myself “I’m going to get there!” How is American culture different than your home culture? The difference that impacts me most is how Americans are “colder” than people from Chile in their daily interactions. People are more formal and aware of personal space here. For example, people here freak out when you touch them, while people in Chile kiss women on the cheek or shake hands between men every time they say hello and goodbye between family members or even people who are friends remotely. Favorite part of Boston? First of all, I love that Boston is a very pedestrian-friendly city. It is very small compared to Santiago, so it is very manageable; you can walk everywhere! This year I got a bike and places have become even more accessible; it’s been great to explore the city from a different perspective. I like the atmosphere of the South End: brownstones, red brick sidewalks, hidden green areas, lots of restaurants. Also, Comm. Avenue is a good walk to see the seasons go by.
ISRAEL | Maya Jacobs, SAC superhero!
Hometown: Tel Aviv What do you miss the most about home? Fruit and veggies. Food in general. Missing my family and friends (of course) and the beach! Why did you decide to move to the US? I moved to the US for my master’s at NEC. The music scene here is much bigger so there are more musicians to learn from and to be exposed. How is the American culture different than the Israeli culture? The Israeli culture is very direct and honest. I feel like the Israeli culture might look tough at first but then it is very sincere. The American culture is very supportive and accepts many opinions and diversities. I love both places and I feel like I have two homes!
BRAZIL | Henrique Eisenmann
What’s your hometown? São Paulo, Brazil What do you miss most about home? The beach!! The yearlong warm weather, samba jam sessions, and the food, of course. Why did you want to come to the US? Sometimes you only understand your own culture and your own music when you are away from it. Boston is an inspiring city, and it’s great to be surrounded by great artists. How is American culture different than your home culture? People hug each other more in Brazil!! What’s your favorite part of NEC? My favorite part at NEC is that you are allowed to have you own voice. No one here tries to shape or change your character or your musical ideas. Favorite restaurant: Fogo de Chão, the Brazilian Steakhouse at Copley Square. (Editor’s note: Read about Henrique’s Ethnic Jam Sessions on page. 16!)
FRANCE | Louise Grevin, cello
Hometown? My hometown is Toulouse. It is in Southwest France, close to the Pyrénées mountains, which are the natural border between Spain and France. What do you miss most about home? This is cliché, but I’m afraid it is true: every time I come back to France, the thing I enjoy the most is the food. Nothing better than good cheese, like Comté or Bethmale, which is a cheese from the Pyrénées. I also sometimes miss a softer way of life. Why did you want to come to the US? I first came to the US to pursue a master’s because I wanted to discover what the classical music world was like on this side of the ocean! Well, five years later, I’m still here… 😉 How is American culture different? American culture is very dynamic! People are optimistic and positive. The work ethic particularly strikes me as very strong. Americans are also really good at communication! However, I find European countries are more open culturally, the arts in general are more accessible to mainstream, more daring and more present in everyday life. Favorite part of NEC/Boston? NEC is an incredibly inspiring place bursting with so many talents. I love being part of this wonderful community where great concerts happen every day! You can never run out of good things to hear… Boston has a European feel which I enjoy very much.
SINGAPORE | Nicholas Loh, piano
Tell us about your picture. The background in the picture is what you’d typically find in a HDB (Housing Development Board) estate, which is basically a place where there are lots of residential flats. Land is very scarce in Singapore, so making the most out of a small area is the name of the game here. This residential area is called ‘Serangoon’ What do you miss most about home? Family and friends most of all, plus I had a stable job before I came to NEC, so I really miss having a regular income! Other than that, I would say it’s just a real change of environment after having settled into a regular lifestyle back home, seeing the usual people and hearing the local slang everywhere. Oh, and the fact that you can get some really awesome, affordable local food (hawker food, as we call it) anytime of the day—including midnight to 6 a.m.! Why did you want to come to the US? I did my undergraduate studies in the UK, and I was contemplating a change of environment and educational system. Furthermore, I needed a studio teacher who could big me up on contemporary music and I found him here (thanks Steve~). How is American culture different than your home culture? People tend to be a lot more vocal here, and it is much easier to start a conversation with most of the locals here. What’s your favorite part of NEC/Boston? The weather. No really, the weather! Now I know that a great deal of people here can’t stand the snow, slush and frigid winds, and it probably wouldn’t help if I told you that Singapore is pretty much in the 80s-90s with sun all year round. Well, just so you know, humidity is no fun at all – you step out of the shower and you’re more or less sweating again. People back home would hide in the air-conditioned comfort of shopping mall just to escape the heat and humidity (while looking at all the pasty white Caucasian tourists outside almost masochistically mopping up the sun), and I am probably one of those unusually heat-intolerant south-east Asian people who would rather have a chill than a heat wave. The recent snowstorm was definitely, and most certainly unfairly, enjoyed by yours truly (and at least I didn’t lose power…that would have been a tragedy).
CYPRUS | Andria Nicodemou, percussion/CI
Hometown? I’m from a small area of Nicosia (the capital of Cyprus) called Kaimakli. Kaimakli is a semi-occupied suburb. 84% of the area is part of the dead zone or occupied by the Turkish. Nicosia remains the only divided capital in the world, with the southern and the northern portions separated by a green line (this is a demilitarized zone, patrolled by the United Nations and established in 1974 following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus). The DMZ is located near the center of the island on the banks of the Pedieos River. The northern part of the city functions as the capital of the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a disputed breakaway region whose independence is recognized only by Turkey, and the rest of which the international community considers as occupied territory of the Republic of Cyprus since the Turkish invasion in 1974. My language is Greek, but in Cyprus we speak with a Cypriot dialect. What do you miss about home? I miss the old city of Nicosia, specifically the small distances. You can go from one to the other side of the island in 2.5 hours. I miss the beaches and the fresh air of the small villages up in the mountains. Why did you want to come to the US? I came here for the musical opportunities; people here understand and respect your work. The art world in Cyprus is not the same. What do you love about Boston? Boston reminds me a European city with American air. You can find both silence and noise, and you don’t need to go far for either.