At first, Boston Symphony Orchestra violinist Lucia Lin didn’t intend to make a statement about diversity or inclusion when she struck upon the idea for her “In Tandem” duet series. Rather, Lin was simply looking for ways to stay active and engaged as an artist. Like many musicians, Lin saw her work dry up completely at the start of the pandemic.
“It made me aware of how fragile our economic world was,” she said recently. “It was scary.”
A longtime friend, composer Gabriela Lena Frank, suggested commissioning a few composers who were in the same predicament. Lin ran with the idea, setting out to fund and perform the pieces entirely on her own (not under the auspices of the BSO).
Lin, who is also a professor at Boston University, started off by listening to composers who had studied at the Creative Academy of Music — a creative incubator based on Frank’s Northern California farm. “The main requirement [for the Academy] is really having heart,” Lin explained. “They don’t need a degree or to have had their pieces performed by organizations.”
Only after choosing 10 composers did Lin realize the field was much more inclusive in terms of race, gender, and musical tradition than the repertoire Lin typically played — that is, the repertoire most American symphony orchestras play. “I have to give credit to Gabi for that,” Lin said, “because she really opened her Academy to all voices.”
Each composer was commissioned to write a duet for Lin and one other instrumentalist — composer’s choice. Two elected to perform with Lin themselves. For the other works, Lin collaborated with a handful of local musicians. She also decided to record an interview with each composer, posted on Lin’s personal site along with the performances. The project kicked off in January with Michael-Thomas Foumai’s “Printing Kapa” duo for violin and harp. Lin plans to post more performances and interviews through the end of spring.