Page 3


PREVIEW It’s a Brown World After All of the Cheech Marin Collection on display at the Art Museum of South Texas, in Corpus Christi. The exhibit runs through Jan. 10 and features the work of Chicano and Chicana artists. The performer’s collection captures the religious, social and political life of Chicanos across the globe. For more information visit . had blossomed into a school legend that Yang had played a private concert for the queen of England and had sipped tea with her. In high school Yang started to feel that his music was no longer an obstacle to social acceptance. His friends had matured and Yang had also begun to enjoy non-classical music. At 16, after he began winning competitions in Texas and around the country, he persuaded his mom to buy him his first guitar. He’d been drawn to the instrument ever since he was young, but his parents would never agree to buy him onethey wanted him to focus on the violin. But once it was in his hands, he loved that $99 guitar, and it opened up a new world to him. Yang’s talent was no longer an isolating burden, but a way to have fun and bring people together. At campfire parties think teenagers, fire and beerhe became legendary for his ability to play virtually any song people requested. “People were always asking for Titanic. `Dude, play the theme from Titanic!'” He was still the kid who thought “Pinky Zukeman” was cool, but now he knew the music the other kids liked, and he liked to play it for them. Yang also performed. for his friends inside the classroom. In a biology class his sophomore year, the students were dissecting a pig when Yang discreetly removed the pig’s eyes, cut off its testicles and placed them in the eye sockets. When the teacher came to inspect his progress, she shrieked and ran from the room. His antics often landed him in the principal’s office. But even the principal couldn’t resist his charm. They got along so welland saw each other so oftenthat by Yang’s senior year he was teaching the principal how to play the guitar. His parents were less than impressed. Time with the guitar was taking away from time with the violin. When Yang is home from Juilliard and performing with his rock band, Charlie Railroad, they worry about his musical direction. “They’d get so upset when I’d jam and go to practice with the band,” Yang says. But he doesn’t think he needs to sacrifice one for the other. He sees classical and pop music as different but equally important. “If there’s one thing I want to do in my life,” he says, “it’s merge classical and popular music.” His teacher at Juilliard, Glenn Dicterow, supports Yang’s quest to fuse genres. Dicterow has taught at Juilliard since the 198os and says Yang has something he hardly ever sees in classical musicians. “It’s very rare, that magnetic star quality,” he said. “It’s so hard for anyone to have a thriving career these days. I think it is a good thing for Charles to explore his options, one of which may be breaking out into the world of pop and bringing the violin with him, bringing it to other people who wouldn’t otherwise hear the violin.” Yang’s band, Charlie Railroad, has performed at Austin rock venues like Red 7, the Red Eyed Fly and Ruta Maya, where he’s mixing up genres. The band plays a set, mostly covers of classic rock songs and some of their own compositions, then during breaks Yang takes out his violin and plays a classical showpiece, often a Paganini Caprice or something similarly virtuosic. The crowds love it: a set of rock followed by a bit of classical wizardry. Even Yang’s parents are slowly coming around. When they heard that a Taiwanese agent wants to make him a classical-pop crossover superstar, they were thrilled. Maybe this “just for fun” thing with the guitar isn’t so bad after all. Nick Romeo is a freelance music and theater writer based in New York. 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER OCTOBER 2, 2009