He calls it "good karma," and maybe it’s exactly that; in any case, it seems that Huang Ruo is connecting to his environment in a particularly vital and intense way, allowing him to ‘absorb’ people and make them part of his creative universe.
Except for the courteous greetings exchanged whenever we would pass each other in the Juilliard corridors — often while we were both searching for the virtually-impossible-to-find vacant fourth floor practice room — I did not know much about Huang Ruo.
Then, at one of David Dubal’s popular Juilliard evening division seminars, I heard him give an outstanding piano performance. I soon found out that playing the piano was only one component of Ruo’s musical expressivity, and that he had already produced several recordings of his fresh oeuvre of compositions, some of which had been very highly praised by esteemed music critics. Occasionally integrating song and instrumental playing with additional media like video, his scores explore musical elements of both Eastern and Western heritage.
I have often wondered how the cultural mix in the student and teacher body that makes up the formidable Juilliard School impacts someone who comes from a place as far away as Huang Ruo does. What does a person have to leave behind in order to adjust to an environment such as New York City, and — although the city has a relatively large Asian student population — when and where is a person of Asian background really encouraged to integrate his or her own culture and traditions into their new life?
For a composer like Huang Ruo, these questions and challenges seem to have morphed into the intricate artistry of his work, creating a fine symbiosis between his Chinese cultural heritage and the Western counterpoints of his current life.
Born on Hainan Island, China in 1976, he was admitted to the Shanghai Conservatory of Music at the age of 12. After winning the Swiss Henri Mancini Award in 1995, he moved to the United States to further his education. He received a Bachelor of Music degree from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and then came to Juilliard to complete his Masters of Music and then his doctorate in composition. Composers Randolph Coleman and Samuel Adler were among his teachers.