Emily Freeman Brown

Emily Freeman Brown

Emily Freeman Brown follows Silk Road to Kazakhstan

October finds BGSU conductor Emily Freeman Brown on the road—the Silk Road. Brown is in Kazakhstan this week and next for special performances in Almaty and Astana celebrating the opening of the new American Embassy in Astana.

The music director and conductor of the Bowling Green Philharmonia and Opera Theater, Brown will conduct the Academy of Soloists, a professional orchestra, in Astana and the student orchestra at Almaty’s Conservatory of Music, where she will also hold workshops for students.

“This is a multifaceted opportunity,” she said. “I have the chance to work with both professional and student orchestras. I’m very excited about that part of it.”

Her visit is part of a series of cultural events called “The Splash” leading up to the opening of the new embassy in mid-November. U.S. officials in Kazakhstan are “very interested in making cultural connections” between the predominantly Muslim country and the United States, Brown said. Also, as a woman conductor, her leadership can serve as a model for young women there. She was invited to Kazakhstan by a State Department cultural attaché she had met on a previous trip to Riga, Latvia.

“Kazakhstan is moving its capital from Almaty to Astana, a new city being built from the ground up,” Brown explained. Located in the north of the country near Russia’s southern border, it is the site of a new oil pipeline that will carry oil east to China and eventually to Western Europe. Almaty, in the far south near Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, is on the former Silk Road trade route through Central Asia.

One of the pieces Brown will conduct is “Chaconne for Violin and Orchestra,” from John Corigliano’s “The Red Violin,” a piece about the Silk Road. Other American composers on the two programs include William Schuman, Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland, Samuel Adler and Leonard Bernstein.

For the Astana concert, Brown will also conduct a classical piece by a Kazakh composer based on traditional folk tunes and marches.

Though Kazakhstan is almost on the other side of the globe (a 22-hour flight from the United States), Brown has found connections there to Bowling Green. “I’ve made contacts through two BGSU graduate students in photochemical sciences who are from Almaty,” she said. “They’ve given me good tourist information and cultural advice.”

Because she will be in Kazakhstan on the Jewish High Holy Days, she has the rare opportunity to attend Yom Kippur and Kol Nidre services at the synagogue in Astana. “It’s one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world,” she said. “This will be a cultural experience I can hardly imagine.”

October 2, 2006