Wang Jie




a biography

Part cartoon character, part virtuoso, musical whiz kid Wang Jie has been nudging serious music and its concert audiences into spectacular frontiers over the past few seasons. Her “FROM NEW YORK, WITH LOVE" transformed a classic percussionist into a dervish-like rock star. Her chamber opera “FLOWN” dramatized the end of a rocky love affair by having the two pianists attack each other and their shared instrument. Despite having the worst title in the history of music, "OBOE CONCERTO FOR THE GENUINE HEART OF SADNESS” channeled the power of the League of Composers Orchestra into an orgiastic whirlwind. An unexpected collaboration with comedy writer Paul Simms inspired a song cycle about dying funny that coaxed belly laughs from an otherwise sedate Opera America audience. Not one to let herself off the hook, she shaped herself into a Monkey God while leading performances of her concert opera "FROM THE OTHER SKY" at Carnegie Hall. There's a touch of glorious madness to Jie's work, but her colleagues and mentors at the Curtis Institute of Music, the Manhattan School of Music and the NYU PhD program have been long aware of the skill, theatricality and method behind it.

Born across the globe in a metropolis bearing the reputation of the Eastern Paris, Jie was a January baby associated with a departing zodiac Sheep, high hope for the arriving Spring and the first year of Single Child Policy. Wang Jie is not the easiest name to sing, and her face? Depending on the time of day, it's Buda sipping a fine whisky or your Chinese Takeout cashier girl next door. However, once you’ve sat in the audience when one of her composition is performed, you’ll want to memorize the music of her name. Once her face animates a bubbly conversation, you’ll at least sneak a second look to see what she may do next.

After a successful escape from a military-run kindergarten, Jie's parents decided that a dose of discipline was necessary to manage the 4-year-old's oversized frontal lobe. They plopped their shrimpy child in front of renowned composer/pianist Yang Liqin. Jie was instantly drawn to the wooden cabinet with the black and white teeth. Eighteen months later, Jie climbed onto the piano bench and performed both volumes of Bach Inventions at her kindergarten graduation. "We sure tamed this kid, didn't we?" approved by the Air Force General after the recital. Jie couldn't read of write Chinese yet: music was her first language and first love.

As it happens, post-Cultural Revolution pre-schoolers who could perform Bach were a penny a bucket. Jie’s small hands soon put her at a disadvantage: unable to play an octave on the piano, she ran out of repertoire to play and was stuck revisiting music she'd already mastered. Then came the news that she was not eligible to audition as a pianist at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. Thinking ahead, mom and dad added an advanced academic curriculum to their imp's 4 hours of daily piano practice. This otherwise detrimental blow served to prepare Jie for the kind of intellectual fast track and in-depth music thinking that enabled her to let pencils and manuscript papers slowly overtake the piano.

After six years of hard study, the new teen crashed again at an audition for the Shanghai Conservatory: the school didn't know quite what to do with this “not so orthodox” composer. Violent parental discussions about who was to blame for this weird kid got Jie shipped to a highly esteemed boarding school/prison for youngsters with special achievements in science. En route to incarceration, Jie sneaked three cassette tapes into her suitcase: Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Tchaikovsky’s “Pathétique” Symphony, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. Considering Jie’s beginner’s luck of previous military escapes, the rest of the story pretty much tells itself. When you catch her saying “music is the difference between life and death”, believe her!

The delinquent student of science was repeatedly caught escaping College Physics courses for a few hours with the piano or reading Mozart biographies under a pile of calculus textbooks. Jie flabbergasted her teachers by winning a national science fair award with her “irrigation system for arid lands of China”. A major university offered her admission at their Physics department. “When it comes to a choice between life and death, the composer must always choose life!” said the reckless high school senior in front of the university officials.

Fifteen years and several world-class mentors later, Jie lives in New York’s Upper West Side with her little white dog Pilot who spends her day mopping Jie’s floor for a handful of food. As Jie puts it: "At any moment, my thoughts may wander from philosophy to a mouth-watering dinner recipe and can then come under attack from insistent muses who command me to publish their music. These muses place bits of music in my head and expect me to have at it! So if you find yourself elated by my music, the credit goes to the muses. If you hate it, well, it’s only 15 minutes long."