Eminent Musicians Reunite in Kirkland

Robert F Worley

Yo-Yo Ma '76, Lynn Chang '75, and Richard Kogan '77 play a selection from Beethoven on Thursday in Kirkland House. They discussed their experiences performing as a trio as undergraduates and how music influenced their education and careers.

The so-called Kogan Chang Ma Trio—a group of three friends at Harvard who went on to become some of the College’s most famous musical alumni—reunited Tuesday afternoon in the Kirkland House Junior Common Room for an installment of the Office for the Arts’s Learning from Performers program.

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma ’76, pianist Richard Kogan ’77, and violinist Lynn Chang ’75 performed briefly for the nearly full room and proceeded to discuss their time at Harvard, how their paths diverged after graduation, and how students involved in the arts can further those interests.

Chang said that as undergraduates, he and his two friends “had all the same questions that many of you are asking.”

The event began with the performance of part of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s short piece “Before I Work, I Must Eat.” Chang joked that for the trio’s performance, a more relevant title might have been “Before We Speak, We Must Play.”

OFA director Jack C. Megan said that the impetus for the event was a conversation that Ma, Kogan, and Chang had at Chang’s daughter’s wedding about how each of their careers had developed to include activities other than performance.

In 1998, Ma founded the Silk Road Project, an artistic and educational organization dedicated to the cultural history of the ancient Silk Road.

Kogan, a concert pianist who also attended Harvard Medical School, has become a prominent psychiatrist known for lecturing on the relationship between music and medicine.

Lynn, a member of Harvard’s Board of Overseers, holds faculty positions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston University, Boston Conservatory, and the New England Conservatory.

“There are so many wonderful ways to live life in the arts,” Megan said. “I was dying to bring that conversation here.”

Each of the performers spoke about their time at the College, at times poking fun of each other and drawing repeated laughs from the crowd.

Kogan said that he did not enjoy practice as an undergraduate, calling his relationship with music at the time a “kind of a shotgun marriage.” Still, he recalled being inspired to see about 30 of his neighbors in Hurlbut attend one of his concerts with the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra.

“Seeing how excited they were about music was a thrill for me,” Kogan said.

Ma said that working with Kogan and Chang taught him how to solve problems as a group, though they “teased me incessantly.”

All three men declared that students interested in the arts should not be afraid to create unconventional paths for themselves.

“I think it’s normal to feel conflict, and I think it’s also okay to not have all the answers,” Ma said. “It’s always going to be not what you expected.”

—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at sweinstock@college.harvard.edu.

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