Music to My Ears: The Brown University Orchestra Introduces Wang Lu

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Hey ya’ll! I’m Vicki: class of 2019, decidedly undecided concentration-wise (but it’s between music, neuroscience, and economics), and your blogger for the Music to My Ears column. I’ll be writing all about Brown’s diverse and bustling music scene each week, so stay tuned!

Last weekend was full of music performances! The Brown Jazz Band gave an outstanding concert on Friday night, and several a capella groups performed on Saturday. And finally, the Brown University Orchestra gave its second concert of the semester!

The concert acted as an introduction to our new music department faculty member: Wang Lu. Luckily, I was able to catch up with her after the concert to feature her in this post!

Wang Lu received her doctorate in composition from Columbia University and has accrued an impressive host of awards, including first prize at the Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne’s Young composers Forum in 2010 and the Tactus International Young Composers Orchestra Forum Award in 2008.

The orchestra program opened with the dramatic, Romantic-era “Ruy Blas Overture” by Mendelssohn. Next up was Stravinsky’s twelve-tone piece (that means that the melody contains all twelve-tones of Western music – aka, it sounds crazy!), “Variations: Aldous Huxley in Memorium,” followed by the highlight of the concert: the Rhode Island premiere of Wang Lu’s atonal “Fathertongue.” The second half finished up with the original of the Russian symphonic tradition: Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1 in G Minor.

After the brilliant performance by the orchestra, I tracked down the effervescent Professor Wang Lu to bombard her with questions.

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Wang Lu, as captured by my subpar phone camera.

Vicki: What classes are you teaching this semester?

Wang Lu: I’m teaching an undergraduate composition seminar and an eighteenth-century Bach-style counterpoint.

V: How would you describe your teaching philosophy?

WL: I try my best to know every student, on top of lecturing. I think every individual needs to be intellectually taken care of.

V: Could you tell us why you chose to come to teach at Brown?

WL: I think this school attracts people with very broad interests, and everyone is, in a good way, an overachiever. This is a great school with a long tradition –  it’s an Ivy League school – but I always tell my students that it also has this cutting edge side of it.

V: Can you elaborate on what you mean by ‘cutting edge’?

WL: I think they are incredibly open minded to new music, and to my music. They treat it as equally as they treat the masterpieces of Western music history. They not only play notes, but they try to understand why. And once you understand the message beyond the notes themselves, you can do a much better job. Students are very curious and patient towards the working process of making music, to give life to the notes on the page.

Questions, comments, or concerns? I want to hear ’em. Seriously! Shoot me an email at


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