This is your first time performing at the fair for Minnesota Public Radio. Is it your first time performing at the fair in general? If not, where have you performed before? Are you excited? What are you hoping that people will get out of your performance?
I am so excited to be performing at the State Fair this year with Minnesota Public Radio! Last year I had the opportunity to perform for "Arts A Fair" with Z Puppets Rosenschnoz as a clown. This year, I get to share my work as an individual artist as well as what keeps me passionate about arts, music and performance. I hope my performance inspires people to change the way they think about music and storytelling, not just as art forms, but as fundamental aspects of life and culture which bring people together from all walks of life.
You're representing the Classical MPR Class Notes Artist program today. What was your experience as a Class Notes Artist like? Why do you think this program is important?
My experience with Classical MPR as a Class Notes Artist was a life changing. For almost 3 months, I performed at a dozen schools in the Twin Cities metro area, and had the opportunity to teach over 500 students about Hmong culture, music and its connection to western Classical Music. This program was extremely important, because (1) it provided me with the opportunity to work with under-represented communities of color to teach them about the importance of embracing the history, culture and voice that makes every human being unique and; (2) it enabled me to represent the stories, art and culture of my people. Representation is extremely important, especially for young children. More specifically, giving the time and space for artists of color to represent their own truths is empowering for everyone. When I told the students about how the Hmong had to flee to the U.S from Thai Refugee camps after the Vietnam War, some kids were in tears. When we make time to learn about one another's stories, it becomes very apparent that people have very different lives. But, I think that's when real magic and love happen; when you're able to see and understand the "other" and embrace them whole heartedly, not in spite of those differences, but because of them. From this experience, I have learned that if we, as a Minnesotan community, are going to grow in partnership, we must actually invest in the communities that make Minnesota such a great place to call home. I truly believe that Classical MPR is doing ground breaking and innovative work. I am honored to represent them and this program.
What sorts of things did you bear in mind when preparing this performance at the Minnesota State Fair?
When creating today's performance, I wanted it to be representative of my sessions as a Class Notes Artist, infusing traditional Hmong folk music, classical music and storytelling all into one high-energy show. I feel like as a musician, people always want to categorize me into one genre, like "she only sings Classical Music," or "That's the girl who sings Hmong music" or "She does musical theater," when the reality is, I do all of the above, and love all of them equally! People are multi-dimensional, and performing all styles of music is part of who I am. The weather will be beautiful, the food will be fantastic (obviously), so why not have some variety of music in this fun and educational performance at the great Minnesota Get Together!?
Can you share the name of a piece or two you'll be performing at the Minnesota State Fair? Why did you choose these?
The theme of the performance is "Musical Storytelling". I'll be performing songs and pieces that tell the story of my people and that are representative of important milestones in my life as a Hmong American artist growing up in Minnesota. Whether it be "Als Luise Die Briefe" by Mozart (the song I performed, which won me a state competition my senior year of high school) or "How Far I'll Go" from Disney's "Moana," these songs remind me of my own story and (excuse the pun) how far I still have yet to go in my own journey.
What are some of your State Fair must-have treats or must-do activities?
I take the State Fair very seriously and there is no time for dilly dallying. I must always start off with a Nutella funnel cake, then I have to head for the roasted corn, alligator meat, turkey leg, foot long hot dog, cheese curds. I finish off with toasty mini donuts and wonderful ride on the carousel.