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SFCM Faculty Featured in ‘The Walls’ by Sérgio Assad starring Yo-Yo Ma

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“The Walls” by Sérgio Assad starring Yo-Yo Ma premiered October 7, 2021. The piece features several SFCM faculty members including every guitar teacher at the collegiate level -- and comes with a special message.

October 7, 2021 by Mark Taylor

By Mark Taylor

The power of music has the ability to bring people together across any barrier, including language, social, economic, cultural, and even physical ones like walls. During the tumultuous political events of the recent past, composer and SFCM guitar faculty member Sérgio Assad created, “The Walls,” to shine a light on the state of human division, and as an aspiration to a future without walls. 

Originally written by Assad in 2018 for solo guitar with a guitar orchestra, Yo-Yo Ma recently asked him to adapt it for solo cello. In addition to being friends, Assad and Ma are both represented by Opus 3 Artists, the leading management company acquired by SFCM in late 2020. Ma will teach and perform at the Conservatory on November 12 as part of this fall’s fundraising gala.

In this brand new recording, Ma is accompanied by leading guitarists from across the globe, including SFCM faculty members Meng Su, Marc Teicholz, Richard Savino and David Tanenbaum. “Many have said that rock 'n roll brought the Berlin wall down. Bruce Springsteen gave a landmark concert before that wall came down at which he said, "I’ve come to play rock ’n’ roll for you in the hope that one day all the barriers will be torn down,” Tanenbaum said of the project, adding, “This piece is a musical travel journey that is also a protest against Trump's proposed wall.” 

The final work presents musical representations of some of the most recognizable walls in human history: The Great Wall of China, Hadrian’s Wall, The Berlin Wall, and barriers now spread across the Middle East region. 

The piece finishes with an inspiring epilogue, “No More Walls,” commenting on the current debate about the existential need for such physical barriers. As the ruins of the Chinese and Roman walls remain today, it shows how all walls might someday become obsolete.

Tanenbaum hopes people take note of the message as society faces new challenges and possible more division, “I hope listeners notice how carefully choreographed everything is. For instance, the first movement which references the great wall of China has an equal number of Chinese guitarists and other Asian guitarists from other countries. The fourth movement that I play in has four guitarists with Jewish heritage and four, including the Assad brothers, with Arab roots,” Tanenbaum continued, “There is really good gender and cultural balance among the players, so it is ultimately a video of our time.” 

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