February 9

Ying brothers prepare to succeed a legend

The world-renowned musicians will follow Lewis Kaplan in directing the Bowdoin International Music Festival.

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

David Ying was an infant, yet to take his first step or speak his first word when Lewis Kaplan began a music festival on the campus of Bowdoin College in Brunswick. Phillip Ying wasn’t even born.

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Phillip, left, and David Ying take over this year as co-artistic directors of the Bowdoin International Music Festival.

Photos by Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

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The Yings, here playing together at Studzinski Recital Hall at Bowdoin College during a recent visit to Brunswick, are members of the Ying Quartet with their sister Janet Ying on violin and Ayano Ninomiya as first violin. The quartet is among the world’s leading chamber music ensembles, having won one Grammy Award and been nominated multiple times.

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This summer, the brothers Ying will walk in the tall shadow of Kaplan, observing his movements, listening to his words and soaking in every possible ounce of his aura and good karma. The Yings – David, 50; and Phillip, 45 – will succeed Kaplan as co-artistic directors of the Bowdoin International Music Festival, taking over for the beloved co-founder at the conclusion of this summer’s 50th-anniversary gala.

Are they daunted?

Of course they are, Phillip said.

“Absolutely. It’s a big responsibility,” the viola player said this week, as the brothers spent a few days in Brunswick before ducking the snow and heading back to their teaching jobs at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. “Lewis and the festival have a huge, enormous legacy. But even Lewis would say he doesn’t want to celebrate by looking back. In fact, he is very shy about people lauding his achievements. He wants to celebrate by moving forward.”

The festival’s board of directors, with Kaplan’s enthusiastic endorsement, named David, a cellist, and Phillip co-artistic directors in waiting in December, citing their history with Bowdoin, their reputation in the chamber music world and their accomplishments as both teachers and performers.

The Ying Quartet, which includes sister Janet Ying on violin and Ayano Ninomiya as first violin, has won one Grammy Award and been nominated for many, and performs regularly in the finest concert halls in North America and elsewhere. As a quartet, it has been performing 22 years.

As it has for the past decade, the Ying Quartet will perform and teach at Bowdoin this summer, and the brothers officially begin their duties in the fall.

They feel daunted because they do not want to mess up something that Kaplan and others have spent a near-lifetime building. The festival attracts 250 high-achieving music students from across the world each summer. The students, who range from their early teens to young adulthood, come to the Bowdoin College campus to study with a faculty of 60 instructors, many of whom are leaders in music education and performance.

Kaplan co-founded the festival in 1964. He teaches violin at the Juilliard School in New York, and recruits students to the Bowdoin festival during his travels around the country and to Europe and Asia.

EMANUEL AX WAS HERE

Among the festival’s alumni is pianist Emanuel Ax, whose career has been celebrated in concert halls worldwide. He attended Bowdoin as a student in the late 1960s, and has remained loyal to the festival and Kaplan.

On Monday, Ax will host a benefit concert and dinner in honor of Kaplan at the Lotos Club in New York. The event already has raised more than $75,000 for student scholarships.

It is that environment into which the brothers Ying step, with both enthusiasm and equal measures of awe and wonder.

David Ying described Bowdoin as an “incredibly supportive and nurturing environment,” where the quartet has thrived because of its ability to focus.

The opportunity to teach, perform and enjoy chamber music in a collegial environment is unparalleled, he said.

“We came, we enjoyed it. It was great to find such a large festival so oriented around chamber music, which is near and dear to our hearts,” David said. “One thing that is special about the festival is that it is both a festival in which the public can enjoy wonderful concerts, and also a place where students from all over the world can come and enjoy this retreat-like atmosphere. For the students, we want to provide the best possible atmosphere for them to flourish, to concentrate on the music and for their talents to flourish and grow. There are not many, if any, festivals that offer that combination.”

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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David Ying, left, plays the cello as his brother, Phillip, plays the viola in the Studzinski Recital Hall at Bowdoin College in Brunswick last week. The brothers are co-artistic directors of the upcoming Bowdoin International Music Festival.

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David Ying plays the cello in the Studzinski Recital Hall at Bowdoin College in Brunswick.

 


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