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Ensemble Member Jonathan Gandelsman playing the violin at the RISD Art Museum.


Engaging New Audiences
Silk Road Ensemble member Johnny Gandelsman plays the violin at the RISD Art Museum. Residencies in museums and universities allow Ensemble members to take inspiration from works of visual art, collaborate on new projects, and share musical traditions with audiences in informal settings.

Gabriela Lena Frank


"I think travel is so important, especially for composers. We're storytellers. We're uniting a lot of different things, and we're coding it in music in order to give our impressions of the world."

Gabriela Lena Frank

Composer (United States) Identity has always been at the center of Gabriela Lena Frank's music. Born in Berkeley, California, to a mother of mixed Peruvian/Chinese ancestry and a father of Lithuanian/Jewish descent, Frank explores her multicultural heritage most ardently through her compositions. Inspired by the works of Bela Bartók and Alberto Ginastera, Frank is something of a musical anthropologist. She has traveled extensively throughout South America and her pieces reflect and refract her studies of Latin-American folklore, incorporating poetry, mythology, and native musical styles into a western classical framework that is uniquely her own. She writes challenging idiomatic parts for solo instrumentalists, vocalists, chamber ensembles, and orchestras. Moreover, she writes, "There's usually a story line behind my music; a scenario or character."

While the enjoyment of her works can be obtained solely from her music, the composer's program notes enhance the listener's experience, for they describe how a piano part mimics a marimba or pan-pipes, or how a movement is based on a particular type of folk song, where the singer is mockingly crying. Even a brief glance at her titles evokes specific imagery: Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout; Cuatro Canciones Andinas; and Ríos Profundos. Frank's compositions also reflect her virtuosity as a pianist—when not composing, she is a sought-after performer, specializing in contemporary repertoire.

In 2009, Frank was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship on the basis of stellar achievement and exceptional promise for continued accomplishment. Her piece Inca Dances won the 2009 Latin Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition.