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Trio Oregon Warms Up

May marked the first public performance of a new music ensemble at Willamette. Trio Oregon, composed of pianist Jean-David Coen, violinist Daniel Rouslin and cellist Hekun Wu, recently gave a warm-up concert at Willamette before heading to China and Japan. They will perform seven concerts in seven cities, including one at Willamette's sister institution, Tokyo International University, in Kawagoe, Japan.

The concert tour, organized by Wu, retraces familiar territory. Trio Oregon will perform and give master classes at Shanghai's Conservatory of Music, where Wu once studied and taught, and at other cities across his homeland. The concert will feature pieces by Beethoven and Brahms, a bittersweet reflection on World War II by Russian composer Shostakovich, and a piece by Willamette composer-in-residence John Peel, in which "particles of music" drift away from each other.

Pianist Jean-David Coen: Practice makes perfect
Pianist Jean-David grew up in Beverly Hills, the son of a screenwriter and novelist. "My parents recognized the value of the arts, and the value of children doing something that would challenge them and take them outside of themselves," he says. He was enrolled in piano lessons at age five with a legendary teacher -- the first of many. "I had to be pushed to practice, but I always knew that there was nothing more important than music." As he grew older he came to understand that command of the instrument necessitated hours at the keyboard.

"By the age of seven or eight I had the understanding that music did something to me outside of my normal experience. I got chills when I listened to Beethoven. That was something even Sandy Koufax, the pitcher for the Dodgers, couldn't do."

Coen has performed with numerous orchestras, appeared in solo recitals in Paris and New York and been featured on National Public Radio. His students have won major international piano competitions and performed at Carnegie Hall.

Daniel Rouslin: Wearing his heart on his sleeve
Violinist Daniel Rouslin's first musical influence was his grandfather's 78 rpm records. His grandfather, a grocer and tailor, had played violin and conducted a small orchestra in England before coming to America. Rouslin's parents scheduled piano lessons for him at age six, but Rouslin had already fallen in love with the violin, which he heard at a school assembly. "I came home and said I wanted to play the violin, and I've been doing it ever since," he says.

"I tell my students it's not enough just to practice hard," says Rouslin, who plays an 1860 French violin. "Music is a whole world. You grow by listening to performers who have something to say and the tools to say it." Rouslin's playing has changed as he has matured. "I've stopped worrying about mistakes and worry more about communicating. I'm not as afraid to wear my heart on my sleeve."

Rouslin has toured in South America and the Middle East for the U.S. State Department. Before coming to Willamette he toured in Europe and the United States with the award-winning Delos String Quartet, in which he was first violinist. He is currently concertmaster with the Salem Chamber Orchestra.

Cellist Hekun Wu: To be a complete artist
Cellist Hekun Wu came of age in China during the Cultural Revolution, when music conservatories were closed -- all except four. At age 12, Wu was admitted to one, where he threw himself into piano and cello practice. His talent later earned him a place at the highly competitive Shanghai Music Conservatory.

In the 1980s Wu left China to begin studies at the Paris Conservatory, where he immersed himself in all that had once been forbidden -- art museums, the opera and literature. "I was in my early 20s," he says, "a time when one absorbs an understanding of life. That period made a huge impact on me as an artist."

Wu went on to energize orchestras with his conducting and to electrify audiences in Europe, China and the United States with his cello performances. He has been featured on numerous radio and television broadcasts, and currently conducts the Salem Chamber Orchestra.

Wu says, "To be a complete artist you have to have a scientist's mind, a philosopher's way of thinking, the imagination of a poet, and the stoicism of a Buddhist monk."

Composer John Peel: Rethinking music
Peel began his musical career singing in a boys' choir and playing clarinet and oboe. At age 15 he began riding his bike to a nearby university for lessons. "I wanted to play more than one line," he says, "so I began studying piano and composition." Organ lessons soon followed, and mentors gave him insight into the life of a musician, including the commitment involved.

That commitment carried Peel through graduate school, where he set biblical psalms and French poetry to music. He was a traditional composer until he discovered modern French composers, especially Debussy. "I was attracted to their tonal beauty, their abstraction and sensibility," he says. "They projected a radical rethinking of musical color." Since then, Peel, a modernist composer by training, has been on "a trajectory toward formal loosening, moving toward wider melodic expression."

Peel is currently composer-in-residence at Willamette University, where he writes solo, chamber, symphonic and operatic compositions. His works have been performed by symphonies across the nation, and he has received numerous awards and grants.