Focus Carolina

Focus Carolina: Clara Yang

A noted pianist, she is used to performing in grand concert halls around the world and gathering her students in a studio so they can play together. But the global pandemic has changed that.

Clara Yang plays a piano on stage
Clara Yang is a noted pianist and the head of keyboard studies in the music department. (Photo courtesy of Clara Yang)

A noted pianist, Clara Yang is used to performing in grand concert halls around the world and gathering her students in a studio so they can play together. Yang is an associate professor of music and head of keyboard studies in the department of music in the College of Arts & Sciences.

Today, because of the global pandemic, she collaborates with other musicians using video recordings and convenes her piano students for class on Zoom.

In addition to one-on-one instruction, Yang usually teaches music classes — playing in an ensemble, accompanying other musicians and improvisation — in person, but with the pandemic, she and her students have had to rely on technology.

Teaching an instrument, for example, requires a lot of interaction. “If I’m there with a student, I can guide them,” she said. “They watch me. They listen to me. It’s very visual and very interactive.”

Yang added, “This whole pandemic really taught us how to think creatively to make teaching more effective.”

The distinguished composer Chen Yi wrote the piano concerto “Four Spirits” for Yang. In November 2016, Yang travelled to Beijing for the world premiere of the piece, playing with the China Philharmonic Orchestra in the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing.

“We rehearsed for two days, and then on the concert day it really was our best performance,” she recalled. “It was quite amazing that everybody came together and brought the piece to life.”

Then, one month later, the U.S. premiere of the piece took place with the same orchestra visiting Carolina’s Memorial Hall as part of a Carolina Performing Arts series.

Yang earned a Doctorate in Musical Arts in piano performance at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, and a Master of Music degree at the Yale School of Music. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Southern California.

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Read a transcript of this interview.

Read a transcript of this interview.