Dorothy Chang: Forging her own path
Updated: Dec 8, 2022
We are thrilled to announce that the 2023 LunART Composer-in-Residence is the amazing Dorothy Chang. Every year, LunART holds Composers Hub, a professional development program for aspiring women composers, led by a composer in residence.
Ever since she was a young girl, Chang has expressed interest in composing. It was a creative outlet for her, until she later found out she could make a career out of her passion.
“I wrote my earliest ‘composition’ (only six measures long!) for recorder,” Chang said. “This was in third grade, when everyone learned the instrument in music class at school. As a child, I loved drawing, painting and writing poems and stories. To me, composing was just another creative activity.”
When Chang was in school, she came to the realization that she could turn this long term passion into her future career.
“I had planned to be a business major but by chance discovered an introductory composition class for non-music majors,” Chang said. “I had never realized that music composition was something that one could study!”
When Chang looked into her favorite works as a composer, she expressed the value of collaboration.
“I've had a few favorite experiences and they've all been interdisciplinary works that involved collaboration with artists from other disciplines, and sometimes with other composers,” Chang said. “I love the process and experience of creating something that could never have existed without the contributions of multiple artists. There's a special kind of exciting and dynamic energy when there are several creative minds working together to realize a shared vision.”
As a female in a more male-dominated field, many women composers struggle to find people to look up to who are like them.
“I think the biggest challenge I faced was being a composition student with no female role models,” Chang said. “All of my composition teachers were men. At that time, there were no female composition professors at the schools I attended.”
Furthermore, as a female of a minority group, she did not see proper representation of music and pieces of work outside of the mainstream European influences.
“Most of the repertoire we studied was written by male composers, and largely Eurocentric,” Chang said. “As an Asian-American woman composer, I saw very little of myself in what was being held up as the 'ideal', so I felt I had to forge my own way.”
When it comes to composers, Chang feels that women tend to be more critical of themselves than men. Chang encourages that women have more grace with themselves.
“What I do see is that women - more often than men - tend to undervalue their own work and experience, and end up not submitting or applying to competitions and other opportunities,” Chang said. “So, one piece of advice would be to just go for it, and not be too self-judgemental or worry about not being 'ready' or good enough.”
Chang is inspired by her grandmother as she is someone with qualities that Chang aspires to embody.
“My biggest inspiration is my grandmother, who had a remarkable life that began in rural China at the end of the Qing dynasty and took her through years on the run from war with her young children in tow, a perilous
escape from war-torn China, starting over from absolutely nothing, and eventually ending up in the US many years later,” Chang said. “She passed away many years ago, but I have vivid memories of her incredible strength, wisdom, humor and ability to view every situation in the most positive light, even late into her life.”
Now, looking at her future as the Composer-in-Residence for this upcoming LunART Festival 2023, Chang is most ready to be a mentor for the next generation of composers.
“I am most looking forward to connecting and working with the student composers, and getting to know their music,” Chang said. “Music festivals were an integral part of my compositional development and educational experience, and I have many fond memories and lifelong friendships from those times.”
To learn more about Dorothy Chang, you can visit her website here!
Article by Ava Wojnowski
Ava Wojnowski is an intern with LunART. She is majoring in journalism and Spanish and is excited to bring her passion for writing to LunART. Outside of school, Wojnowski loves to spend time outside and also loves to listen to music. She played the viola from 4th to 12th grade, so music has always been a part of her life.