As part of the American Expressions festival, we are celebrating how our Orchestra and community have been enriched by people with roots all over the world.
We asked the musicians to share more about their heritage and invite you to read on to discover more about their family histories. When you finish, don’t forget to find these musicians on our interactive map in the Orchestra Hall lobby before placing dots to show which places in the world you are connected to!
Susie Park | First Associate Concertmaster
Country of origin: Sydney, Australia; parents from Seoul, South Korea
When did you first start learning the violin? Age 3
When did you move to the U.S.? I moved here in 2015.
What made you decide to move to the U.S.? To join the Minnesota Orchestra.
How has your heritage influenced your artistry? My family instilled a hard work ethic and a deep love of music.
Fun heritage facts: I do not enjoy vegemite, but I do sometimes relish kimchi with my avocado toast.
Adam Kuenzel | Principal Flute
Countries of origin: Ancestors from Eastern Russia and Germany
When did you first start learning the flute? Age 9
When did your family move to the U.S.? To the best of my knowledge, all of my great-grandparents emigrated to the U.S. either as children or adults and were welcomed at Ellis Island. My mother’s side of the family stayed in New York City and my father’s side is from Cincinnati.
How has your heritage influenced your artistry? My maternal grandfather was an attorney who played the violin. I don’t think he practiced too often, so maybe it was a good thing that I only heard him play once or twice.
Fun heritage facts: A distant ancestor, Oscar Zerk, invented the “Zerk valve” used in lubrication devices. One of my maternal great-grandfathers, Jacob Katz, was an obstetrician who delivered Jacob Javits, who represented New York in both houses of Congress between 1947 and 1981.
Manny Laureano | Principal Trumpet
Country of origin: Parents from Puerto Rico
When did you first start learning the trumpet? Age 12
When did your family move to the US Mainland? 1981
Why did you move to Minnesota? To join the Minnesota Orchestra.
How has your heritage influenced your artistry? Latin music is full of subdivisions that help you learn rhythms. Having a Hispanic background lends a greater understanding to romance languages and the musical styles that originated in those countries.
Rebecca Corruccini | First Violin
Countries of origin: Ancestors from Italy, Germany and England
When did you first start learning the violin? Age 3
When did you move to Minnesota? In 2008, to join the Minnesota Orchestra.
How has your heritage influenced your artistry? My great-grandfather was an Italian opera singer, so I like to think that music runs in my blood, and I’ve always been proud of that connection to my heritage despite the fact that he died long before I was born.
Roma Duncan | Flute and Piccolo
Country of origin: Nova Scotia, Canada; parents from the Shetland Isles in Northern Scotland
When did you start learning the flute? Age 11
When did you move to the U.S.? To Minnesota? I immigrated to the states in 2000, moved to Minnesota in 2003, and became a citizen in 2004.
Sifei Cheng | Viola
Country of origin: Taipei, Taiwan
When did you first start learning the viola? Age 12
When did you and your family move to the U.S.? I was 8 years old.
What made your family decide to move to the U.S.? Why Minnesota specifically? My dad wanted a better life for our family. They still live in California along with both of my brothers. I moved to Minnesota when I won this job on my very first audition after studying at Juilliard and the Curtis Institute of Music.
How has your heritage influenced your artistry? Having moved here when I was eight, I feel I can draw from the best of both worlds…between a strict upbringing in Taiwan and the freedom of the Western culture. I have applied these cultures to the way I approach, practice and perform music.
Brian Jensen | Horn
Countries of origin: Ancestors from Denmark, Scotland and England
When did you first start learning the horn? Age 11
When did your family move to the U.S.? My ancestors immigrated here in the first half of the 1800s.
What made your family decide to move to the U.S.? My family came to the U.S. to follow their newfound faith to Utah.
What made you decide to move to Minnesota? To join the Minnesota Orchestra.
Has your heritage influenced your artistry? If so, how? Absolutely! I learned the skills of dedication, sacrifice and diligent work toward a worthy goal passed down through generations of ancestors. All of these skills were necessary in preparing myself to perform at the level required by this orchestra.
Fun heritage anecdote: I have a biography of one of my earliest ancestors to immigrate to the U.S. He came from Glasgow, Scotland. The great violinist Paganini was traveling through town when his carriage broke down. When the townspeople learned who he was, they wanted to hear him play. They refused to fix his carriage until he had played them a concert. My ancestor wrote a short review of this in the newspaper. What a neat experience it was for me to read that biography while the orchestra was on tour in Scotland several years ago. I even got to see a park where my ancestor, John Lyon, had played as a child.
A few years ago the orchestra toured also in Copenhagen, Denmark. For me the experience was profound. I knew I had lots of ancestors who had come from Denmark, but I was unprepared for the kinship I felt toward the people of that country. When I got off the plane, it was as if I had stepped right into a family reunion. So many young men looked like me. So many girls in the pastry shops resembled my sisters. I felt like I was one of them, like I was home. I wanted to take the feeling back to Minnesota. Knowing that was not possible, I did the best I could and brought home as much Danish pastry as I could carry. I look forward to returning someday to research and explore more.
Robert Anderson | Bass
Country of origin: Grandparents from Skåne, Sweden
When did you first start learning the bass? Age 14. I played the violin and tuba before that.
When did you move to Minnesota? In 1974, to join the Minnesota Orchestra.
How has your heritage influenced your artistry? My mother played and taught violin and piano.
Fun heritage fact: My paternal grandparents were from Sweden. They settled in Boston, where there was a large Swedish community.
R. Douglas Wright | Principal Trombone
Country of origin: Ancestors from England
When did you first start learning the trombone? I started playing the baritone horn, which is kind of like a baby tuba, in the 5th grade. I originally wanted to be a drummer, but there were already too many of them in the band. The band director had an extra baritone horn, so I decided to play that because more than anything, I just wanted to play in the band. In 7th grade, my band director had me switch over to trombone (probably because I had arms long enough to play it) and it has stuck with me ever since.
When did you move to Minnesota? My wife and I moved to Minnesota in the fall of 1995 when I joined the Minnesota Orchestra.
What made you decide to move to Minnesota? Like many of my colleagues, it was the Orchestra that brought me to Minnesota. I grew up down south and was rather afraid of the Minnesota winters when we first moved here. But once I learned how to cross-country ski and tried some of the other fun outdoor activities that we have here (both in the winter and in the summer), I fell in love with the place. It’s been a wonderful place to raise our two kids.
How has your heritage influenced your artistry? I found out about my Mayflower roots only this year. Since I just found out about it, I wouldn’t say that it had a profound effect on my playing. However, brass playing is HUGE in England, so perhaps it kind of snuck in unbeknownst to me anyway.
Fun heritage fact: My mother has traced our family tree back to William Mullins, who was the 10th signer of the Mayflower Compact, meaning that he actually came over from England on the Mayflower. He is my great (x14) grandfather. He was a boot maker and came here to make and sell shoes. He did not survive here for long, but his daughter Priscilla did and she had 20 children with her husband, John Alden. I came from this line. William Mullins’ adult son stayed back in England and kept the shoe shop going back home. Mullins’ shoe shop is still in existence to this day in Surrey!