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MA 30 Profiles in Courage: Yin-Chu Jou
By John Fleming
December 2, 2014
The largest international choral festival in New York City involves at least seven ensembles from around the world with up to 500 singers and a week of performances, including one at United Nations headquarters. Who coordinates it all?
That would be Yin-Chu Jou, founder of the Rhythms of One World festival, which premiered in 2012, presenting adult and children’s choirs from Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, Luxembourg, Canada, Australia, Norway, and the U.S. in concerts at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center and the U.N. General Assembly Hall, as well as other venues. Running the festival is part of her job as artistic director of the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, a nonprofit cultural exchange agency affiliated with the U.N.
With its last iteration held in Geneva, Switzerland, the festival returns to New York in June, coincident with the 70th anniversary of the signing of the U.N. charter. “This is a huge undertaking, with so many moving parts,” said Yin-Chu in a recent interview. “The logistics, the bureaucracy, the venues, the sponsors, the selection of choirs, the funding, the audience development—it takes a lot of tenacity.”
Yin-Chu, 38, who is Taiwanese and grew up in the Philippines, received a postgraduate degree in piano performance at Manhattan School of Music. With the Foundation since 2005, she has moved to expand its business model from mainly an operator of tours by choirs, bands, and orchestras to a producer of music festivals around the world. She believes that the choral festival is an ideal vehicle to further the U.N. goal of promoting peace.
“Choral music is great because many people continue their musical lives through choral singing, rather than playing an instrument,” she said. “It is easier to bring together a critical mass of choral enthusiasts from around the world who believe in this mission and the goals of the U.N. and to celebrate harmony and diversity through singing.”
In 2009, Yin-Chu was diagnosed with leukemia, and she credits the fervor she has for her job with helping her to overcome the illness. “I strongly feel that my commitment to the festival actually is limiting the spread of the leukemia I had a few years back, because of the positive work I’m doing,” she said. “I don’t have time to focus on it. I just move forward with work on the festival.”
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