Composing from the heart

Catherine Liu, Staff Writer

From her first piano piece at the age of seven, I-chunn Ru has come a long way in her journey as a composer, now writing music for the Diamond Bar High School Symphony Orchestra, which her daughter currently plays in.

“When my son Dustin attended Diamond Bar High School as a freshman in 2011 and passed the violin audition for the Symphony Orchestra, the connection between me and the orchestra started,” Ru said.

After listening to a few of its Wednesday practices, she talked to music program director Steve Acciani and was able to start composing for the group.

“We love the idea. Any time we can get students connected to professionals and adults it’s a great opportunity and being a part of the creative process is a really neat thing for the kids,” Acciani said.

After Ru’s son graduated, Ru’s daughter, Clara Ru, joined the Symphony Orchestra as a freshman.

“She’s always composing at home so it’s something she wants to do and I think it’s good that she has this chance, especially since I’m playing and it feels good to play her music,” Clara Ru, now a senior, said.

Ru, who majored in composition, graduated from Kow-Kwong High School in Kaohsiung, Taiwan and received a doctorate degree in Musical Art from USC. As a composer, Ru has written music for many ensembles, such as a percussion and a harp quintet group, which are mostly from the Physician’s Chamber Orchestra of Taiwan. She has also taken on projects from other organizations along with doing song arrangements for individuals.

One of Ru’s most memorable experiences was 24 years ago when she was commissioned for a Musical Instrument Digital Interface project by the Grammy Award-winning classical composer Libby Larsen. Larsen was a visiting professor at CalArts at the time that Ru was studying for her masters. After viewing the work of all the graduate students in composition, Larsen had requested Ru to take on the Yamaha MIDI grand piano project.

“I named this solo piece ‘Ton-Hwa Street,’ which is a famous night market at Taipei, Taiwan, the city where I grew up. From this precious experience, I used my ’notes’ to record and describe the memorable moment,” Ru said.

In addition to composing, Ru is a certified grade examiner of Yamaha Grade Examination in Piano, Electone and Fundamental and a judge of Yamaha JOC composition contest every year. She also provides lessons in piano, composition and music theory.

So far, Ru has composed “At the Far Away Place”(2013), “Pavement Road” (2015), “Dance of a Mud Doll” and “At the Far Away Place” (2017) for the DBHS’s orchestra. A 2017 version of “At the Far Away Place” was turned into a collaboration piece between the symphony orchestra and the leading guzheng (known as a zither in the U.S.) soloist Cynthia Hsiang at a Hollywood recording studio. Ru is also preparing for an upcoming piece before the end of the school year.

“The thing I like best about her music is it’s meaningful. She’s taking folk tunes, things that she grew up with and turning them into things for a full orchestra that allows us to understand more about her culture and be more connected throughout different generations,” Acciani said.