A memorial concert was held last Saturday in the Merkin Concert Hall of the Kaufman Center in New York City in honour of composer Andrew Yin Svoboda, who passed away at the young age of 27, just a few months into his doctoral studies at Columbia University. The event was sponsored by the university's Department of Music and a student-run organization called Columbia Composers organized the memorial along with the tireless efforts of the Svoboda family.
Born in 1977 in Ontario, Canada, Andrew Yin Svoboda began studying piano at age five and by elementary school was composing music. He received both his Bachelors and Masters Degree in music composition at McGill University in Montreal. Ultimately, it was his diverse background that poised him to lead a successful career.
Son of a Czech father, Josef Svoboda, and a Chinese mother, Lewina Svoboda, Andrew became a practitioner of meditation at an early age. His practice was nurtured in high school during time spent over three summers in the Arctic, working as a field assistant in treeless tundra and hauling his heavy synthesizer along the way. Andrew's father was Canada's first full-time Arctic plant ecologist and has made considerable contributions to the understanding of Arctic ecology. But what continued to strike the soul of young Andrew were stories from Dr. Svoboda's nine years spent in prison in Czechoslovakia under the oppressive communist regime.
The concrete floors of a prison cell in the uranium mine town of Jachymov became the setting for "Martin Streda", the opera written and composed by Andrew Yin Svoboda based on impressions passed onto him by his father. "Martin Streda", is a drama for solo baritone and ensemble and was brought to life for his memorial concert. Andrew's parents sought baritone Karel Ludvik another promising Czech-Canadian musician on recommendation of Andrew's mentor at McGill University. He is currently continuing his studies in Augsburg, Germany. Though the libretto is in English, with exception of a few Czech words and phrases, the Svoboda family is hoping that the piece will be translated into Czech. After all Dr. Svoboda points out, it was an opera written for Czech people.
Andrew Yin Svoboda passed away far too early on December 29th, 2004. For more information on his life and work please visit www.andrewsvoboda.com
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