A Carnegie debut is exciting for any musician, but particularly in Cristina's case. Cristina is both a terrific collaborative pianist and a punk bagpiper. A while ago, she played in a master class given by Osvaldo Golijov at Rutgers University, where she is a candidate for the Doctoral degree. She mentioned to Mr. Golijov that she also plays the bagpipes, gave him a recording, and he was, by his own admission, blown away.
He insisted that Cristina come demonstrate the bagpipes at one of the "jam sessions" held during the Silk Road Project's training workshops. Everyone else, including Yo-Yo Ma, was just as enthused. With one week to go until the world premiere of his newest composition, the great composer Golijov set about to re-work his chamber ensemble piece so that it featured the bagpipes!
How he completed this almost Mozartean task is beyond my power to speculate...I can't think of another composer alive today with the creative facility to do something like that. But re-work it he did...and Cristina began it on Thursday. Three days before the concert, she began learning the piece with which she would make her Carnegie Hall debut.
The other musicians, including Yo-Yo Ma, set up their music stands in a circle around Cristina, into which she strode confidently and smiling, without music. Seldom have I seen such captivating playing, and in a review published today, the Times critic clearly agreed. Cristina plays the bagpipes with a passion, intelligence, soul, and technical brilliance that few artists on any instrument can match.
It was stunning for me to witness her trajectory over the past year. She came to New York a year ago, knowing almost no one, and a year later, she gave the world premiere of a piece by the world's trendiest composer, in the world's greatest hall, with the world's greatest cellist accompanying her. I am honored to know her.
I mention the experience of this concert so that you know that Music for the People is far from alone. The Silk Road Project is the giant right now in the area of using music for the purpose of cultural dialogue. It is the colossus beneath which all efforts in this area must pass, and I hope that MFTP will one day wield the kind of influence that the Silk Road Project carries so nobly.
And Cristina, through her extraordinarily variegated career, represents yet another innovative way of bringing cultures together. I hope and pray that times are changing...that the long night of misunderstanding will soon yield to the dawn of a new era of global respect.