Dear Friends --
2015-2016 was an amazing and busy year -- so busy, in fact, that I have not been able to blog since January! It's time to bring you up to speed with some of the highlights of this past season.
1. Refugee Benefit Concert
On November 21, 2015, I performed the complete Debussy Etudes at Third Reformed Church (Holland, Michigan), gave my personal testimony as a refugee, and raised $8,944.27 for Syrian refugee relief efforts. Contributions continued to pour in well after the recital, which ultimately amounted to over $9,000.00 in donations. This included the sale of my CD recording at the recital, the proceeds of which went towards this effort. 100% of the money was then transferred to the Reformed Church in America for the support of existing refugee missions in Turkey, Hungary, Austria, Italy, Iraq, and Pakistan.
This concert was one of the most difficult yet fulfilling performing experiences I've ever had. Although it was scheduled well in advance, the timing was uncanny: The Paris terrorist attacks had just occurred, and anti-refugee sentiments were hotly brewing in this country. I also happened to be playing an all-French program in honor of the Debussy's Etudes' Hundredth anniversary. I even received calls urging me to cancel the concert. Nevertheless, I stuck with it because I simply had to. As a refugee myself, and as a Christian, I could not just stand around and do nothing. Not playing this recital was not an option.
West Michigan Piano, LLC, donated the moving costs and the rental of an exceptional Steinway Model D concert grand piano for this event.
Here is an article that appeared in the February 2016 issue of RCA Today:
2. The Passing of my Dear Friend and Saint, Alfred Swanson
Just this week, I was faced with yet another difficult performance -- terribly difficult, in fact. Al Swanson was absolutely instrumental in bringing our family from war-torn Vietnam to the United States in 1979, when I was just a toddler. (Read the story in the photo above; or, for more details, enroll in my Senior Seminar course at Hope.) Al passed away last week and I was invited to perform at his funeral on Tuesday. As much of an honor as this was, this performance was very hard for me, as I felt that there was no way that I could possibly repay the enormous debt of gratitude that I owe this man and his family. I am here -- with my job, my family, my children, everything that I have -- because of Al. His life's work and legacy is nothing short of inspiring, and I invite you to read about it here: Al Swanson's Obituary. If we all lived this kind of life, can you imagine how amazing this world would be?
Here is a photo of my grandfather, Linh, working alongside Al in surgery (c.1960) (photographer unknown):
3. Mini-tour of the Complete Debussy Etudes
Claude Debussy composed his Etudes in 2015, and to honor the hundredth anniversary of this amazing body of work, I performed the complete Etudes on a mini-tour in Cedarville (Ohio), Murfreesboro (Tennessee), and Holland (Michigan) in November 2015. These Etudes have remained one of my all-time favorite pieces to play, ever since I performed them for my Carnegie Hall debut in 2004.
4. Recruitment for Hope College
Utilizing creative new strategies, establishing and fortifying endowed scholarships for piano, and dedicating even more energy towards recruitment efforts, the number of students coming to Hope to audition for piano scholarships in 2015-16 shot though the roof by over 400%. Yes -- Four hundred percent! We were faced with the problem of not having enough scholarships to award to all of our deserving candidates, but that is surely a better problem than not having interested students to begin with. Certainly, I attribute some of this success to the completion of our stunning new building construction; however, it is mainly due to my efforts at energizing my teaching, strengthening my reputation, and repositioning the importance of piano in our curriculum. My teaching is emerging as something that, indeed, has great intrinsic value. I am committed to perpetuating these newfound strategies, formulating new ones, and ever-finding creative yet effective ways to market Hope as the very best place in the world to earn an undergraduate degree in music.
5. Integration into the Greater College and Town Community
I firmly believe in the value of a liberal arts education and strive to model myself in ways that reflect this belief. Interconnectedness is at the heart of this. Now entering its ninth season, my Brown Bag Series helps to nurture Holland's "town-and-gown" relationship with Hope. This year was the first time we held Brown Bag on campus in the lobby of our magnificent new building, further fulfilling our vision for our facility to serve as an arts gateway for our greater West Michigan community.
I also serve as a Faculty Fellow for the Center for Ministry Studies, regularly serve Communion at The Gathering, and am involved with the Senior Seminar and Initium programs at Hope. In addition, I serve as a keyboardist and violinist in the Holland Symphony Orchestra (HSO). HSO recently performed Brahms' German Requiem on the stage of Hope's new concert hall. It was an astounding experience to play my violin in this concert, and I felt that it was important to represent Hope not only to the orchestra, but also to our community. Building cross-community relationships and preaching the life-ennoblement that the arts offer -- these things are incredibly important to me.
6. New Steinway for Hope
Last summer I was invited, at the request of the donor, to select a brand-new Steinway Model D for Hope's new concert hall. I traveled to New York City with an entourage of Hope Advancement staff, alumni, and emeritus professors to choose the instrument. This magnificent new instrument was delivered to Hope in November 2015, and now beautifully and dutifully serves our department and our students.
7. Chamber Music Festival of Saugatuck
I serve alongside my wife, violinist Jennifer Walvoord, as Artistic Director of the Chamber Music Festival of Saugatuck (CMFS), now in its 29th season. Through CMFS, I administer a Young Artist Internship program that helps budding young musicians learn the ins and outs of arts administration, a life in music performance, and the opportunity to network with local and international artists. CMFS continues to expand its outreach and educational programs, including the brand-new Master Class Series in addition to existing school programs and migrant camp programs.
Jenny and I also are commissioning a new work from the amazing composer Matthew Browne, to be premiered on August 11 and 12 at CMFS.
So, there you have it: the "State of Drew" report! Many thanks for your continued encouragement and support of everything that I do. I cannot do it without you!