Upon walking into the dimly lit Room 120 on Saturday night, Eastman students were met by a few students from the Inter Varsity group on campus and the young, attentive, and calm face of professor David Chan, the concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in NYC.
Chan, in his suit, brightly colored shirt, polished shoes, and glasses looked around at the large crowd with a pleased expression. After a long introduction presented by senior Calvin Chan in which all of Chan’s accomplishments were listed off, he was finally allowed to begin his speech. His voice was soft but confident as he began to tell the story of his success.
Making it to concertmaster of a major orchestra like the Met Opera Orchestra is the dream of many violinists who graduate from Eastman. Students in the crowd, deep down, were wondering about Mr. Chan’s secret to success. He started from the beginning, a childhood growing up in an Asian-American household with non-musical parents. He began violin early as many violinists do, just shy of his 4th birthday. But surprisingly to the audience, he had not always loved playing the instrument. In fact, at age 11, he begged his parents to let him quit.
By the end of high school, however, he was instead begging his parents to let him go to music school. But they were not sold on the idea and wanted to send him to a university. In a very nonchalant voice, he mentioned what university he had decided to attend: Harvard. He said this in an off hand sort of way, as if he had attended a community college. He also admitted that he really hadn’t learned anything while at Harvard. All he learned as a computer science major was how to multitask, something could have learned at any college. He only saw Harvard as a task he had to complete in order to get to Julliard.
After two years of Julliard, he ventured out on his own. Though many musicians search for a fantastic job like the Met for many, many years, Chan searched for less than five years before landing his gig. His three-year “wilderness” search, according to his testimonial, were some tough times in his life. But he made it though, landed the job at the Met, got married, and started a family.
Now, he has a live-in nanny and he and his wife are both performing at the Met doing four performances during the week. Not a bad life if you ask me. The end of his presentation was all about his Christian faith: finding faith, baptism, and the satisfaction that it has brought him in his life.
The presentation concluded with movie time. There was a short clip of Chan playing a gorgeous solo followed by a short, intermission interview. Though the woman conducting the interview asked pretty typical, boring, and laughable questions, Chan took them in stride and let his personality shine through. His presentation was definitely interesting, and worth the time to sit and listen to. Hopefully, audiences left the room feeling at least slightly inspired and ready to get back to the practice rooms for a few more hours.
Sanguinetti is a member of the class of 2015.