E4: Bryan Young: Music as a Universal Language
Brendan is joined by Bryan Young, touring bassoonist and co-founder of the Poulenc Trio, for a conversation about his experiences as a Black classical musician and tech entrepreneur, the ways he was initially discouraged from pursuing classical music, and his experiences with the criminal justice system (and how music may have literally saved his life).
MORE ABOUT BRYAN YOUNG:
Bryan tours the US and internationally as bassoonist and co-founder of the Poulenc Trio. Bryan serves as the principal bassoonist of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra and is a member of the IRIS Orchestra in Memphis. Bryan studied at the Peabody Conservatory with Linda Harwell and at Yale with Frank Morelli. A winner and finalist in competitions including the Gillet International Bassoon Competition and the ARD International Music Competition in Munich, Bryan has performed as soloist with the Baltimore Symphony and the National Symphony Orchestra. The Washington Post writes that his playing ‘dances with a lightness and grace uncommon for his instrument,’ and the Baltimore Sun has praised his ‘particularly beautiful playing, technical agility and understated elegance.’
As a musical collaborator and chamber musician, Bryan has toured and performed with violinist Hilary Hahn, clarinetists Anthony McGill, Alexander Fiterstein, and David Shifrin, soprano Hyunah Yu, Guggenheim-winning poet Lia Purpura, and appeared with legendary jazz-leader Cab Calloway in his final performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington. Bryan has premiered new works written for him by composers Octavio Vazquez, Steven Gerber, Thomas Benjamin and David Fetter, in addition to more than 25 new works he co-commissioned and premiered with the Poulenc Trio. Bryan was selected by the International Double Reed Society to premiere To Earth by composer Roydon Tse, a work commissioned to celebrate the organization’s 50th anniversary.
Bryan has served on the faculty at Morgan State University. He has been invited as featured lecturer and given masterclasses and workshops at NYU, Princeton, Tulane, Loyola University, Ohio State University, Rutgers, Brigham Young University, University of Texas, University of Arizona, University of Georgia, University of Kentucky, San Francisco State University, Regents University, MD Institute College of Art (MICA), and Towson University. He is a recipient of the Yale Alumni Ventures Grant and the UNCF Award for Excellence.
In addition to his musical activities, Bryan founded Intertwine Systems, a healthcare focused software company. At Intertwine, Bryan was featured on the front page of the Baltimore Business Journal as a “mobile software entrepreneur to watch”. As a technologist, Bryan worked with the State of Maryland in collaboration with the University of Maryland and the Alvin Toffler Institute to develop iPad-based software for cardiologists, and with the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in conjunction with the government of Trinidad and Tobago to develop new research tools for endocrinologists. Bryan served as a partner at SailTime, a global recreational sailing company, chief technologist at JobJybe, an Austin-based startup focused on business communications, and as Director of Connected Healthcare Solutions for Asymmetrik, a Maryland-based software company. Currently, Bryan is Principal Group Leader for Advanced Health Analytics and Artificial Intelligence at MITRE, the United States’ Federally-Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) for Health.
Bryan is President of the Board of the Candlelight Concert Society, is a Vice President of the board of Chamber Music America, and a board member at Boulanger Initiative. He is a frequent guest commentator on Maryland's WBJC-FM radio show, Face the Music.
More about The Violin Conspiracy
Most classical musicians are white, wealthy, privileged. Not Ray: he’s Black and comes from a single-family household, with a self-centered mother who actively blocks Ray’s aspirations. Only his Grandma Nora seems to care about his love for music. She gives him her old family treasure – a beat-up fiddle that hasn’t been played in eighty years. Ray confronts rampant discrimination from an establishment that believes that Black people cannot emotionally understand the music of dead white Europeans: Blacks should stick to hip hop, Gershwin, and jazz. A college music scholarship, and a professor’s mentorship, nurture Ray’s extraordinary talent and unstoppable ambition.
Then Ray discovers that Grandma Nora’s ancient violin is actually a rare and unique instrument that can take his playing to an entirely new level. The resulting media frenzy catapulted him into a solo violinist’s career. His star rises, but with success comes heartbreak: two lawsuits threaten to rip the violin away from him. In the first, his family claims that the instrument is rightfully theirs; in the second, the slaveholder family of his ancestors declare that Ray’s great-grandfather stole the violin from them. The two claims intertwine. Desperate to keep the violin, Ray makes a bargain that will have far-reaching and devastating consequences.
And then someone - his family? The slaveholder family? The mafia? - steals the violin. Ray has a month to raise five million dollars to pay the ransom before the Tchaikovsky Competition - classical music’s version of the Olympics - begins, and before the violin disappears forever.
In Moscow, under the glaring lights of musical stardom, Ray will not only compete but will also discover what happened to the violin that means everything to him.
For more information, visit the official website.