Yes, this was posted on Oct. 12, 2014 though some links were added later. 


We had the unique opportunity to peruse a funding proposal by the Silk Road Project recently, and it raised some serious questions. Well, first one sees the main pitch, "the Silk Road Project led by renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma" and honestly, does anyone spend more than 10 seconds reading beyond that when perusing a bucket-load of proposals? But reading on gave us some interesting answers about how the project promotes itself when applying for funding.

Let's start with the 'core personnel' listed on the proposal - Shane Shanahan, Kojiro Umezaki, Johnny Gandelsman, and Sandeep Das. All outstanding musicians, no doubt about it. But does Colin Jacobsen realize he's not even mentioned on this proposal? Oh that's right, I guess his name just doesn't sound international enough to help out the angle that the Silk Road Ensemble does in fact represent countries of the Silk Road. Umezaki is from Tokyo, Gandelsman is from Russia and Das from India, but how long have they been living in the US? And 'Shanahan'? How is that more relevant than 'Jacobsen'? And an even bigger travesty - how On Earth can one leave out Wu Man from this proposal? The renowned pipa player from China has been involved from the beginning and her instrument and playing most clearly represent music of the Silk Road. Does this reflect the Project's stance toward women as leaders of the ensemble? This is an interesting point that we neglected to mention in our previous post - that the majority of the musicians featured on the Princeton Ensemble concert were women, the young students and the professional soloists. So the fact that Wu Man is the only regular female player in the Ensemble - and not even recognized as a core member - also doesn't seem to represent well the reality of Music from the Silk Road.

This brings us to the next point about the proposal - targeted audience. Usually on a proposal for government funds an organization wants to make a case for targeting a broad constituency, for taking the music to as broad an audience as possible including outreach to children and populations for whom the project would seem relevant. But not here. Nada, nothing, zero, null. This is also odd considering I just recently came across a post by Wu Man on social media with wonderful photos of her performing for a large audience of children. Obviously, the interest in outreach is there, most likely among other members of the ensemble as well. Is it just these particular summer concerts that won't involve outreach? And if so, why pitch this series/tour to a funding agency?

Truth be told I haven't really followed the latest developments with the SRP, but I do remember in the early days the excitement of having Yo-Yo Ma at the helm which would bring untold amounts of attention to regions and music of the world that most Americans were unaware of. And this has undoubtedly happened. So how has this vision been hijacked? or has the framing of the Project's activities always been this skewed? I know a major source of funding in the beginning came from the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, an organization based in Switzerland that could provide the kinds of money that would subsidize large artist fees in order to present concerts in a wide variety of venues initially. I also know that the AKTC formed its own Music Initiative soon after the Silk Road Project began. So possibly the AKTC is not as closely involved anymore. And in any case there exists a US foundation affiliated (at least in name) with the AKTC, the Aga Khan Foundation USA. Has the Silk Road Project established ties with this non-profit? And if not, why not?

We keep saying 'nuclear' but I don't think it means what we think it means. Not in all cases.

 "As for the Elephant Birds, they kept asking each other why they were there at all. In the excitement of the departure from the Respectorate, they had somehow been swept aboard along with the Argo, but they couldn't remember being asked if they would actually like to come. ... They felt kidnapped, shanghaied, dragged along on an adventure that had nothing to do with them and was very probably extremely dangerous, and yes, they thought they might fall off the rug as well."

-Luka and the Fire of Life- Salman Rushdie


Access liner notes and bios for Kathryn Woodard's Journeys CD at the link - our current radio promotion.


Learn more about our new partner And We Were Heard - a diversity project that provides recordings of composers' works by participating wind ensembles!



Check out the video pages for the Anthology of Turkish Piano Music:

Volume I

Volume II

Volume III 


Listen to an excerpt of "Aegean Spring" read at the Midwest Clinic Orchestra Reading session here!


View one of our featured titles, "Victory March," here.


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