Celil Refik Kaya at Dumbarton Oaks


Third recipient of Early-Career Musician Residency

We’re pleased to announce Celil Refik Kaya as the third recipient of the Early-Career Musician Residency, which provides time and resources to young musicians and composers who show promise in transmitting traditions of classical music to younger generations. The residency was previously held by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and violinist Caroline Adelaide Shaw and opera composer Matthew Aucoin.

This balancing act between performance and composition manifests in his concerts, which typically include one or two of his own pieces. Likewise, when Kaya sits down to compose, the resulting works bear a number of disparate influences. “I usually write in different styles,” he explains. “Sometimes I’m using quarter tones—sometimes I’m working in a more neo-romantic style. I’m also writing for different combinations of instruments, like koto and guitar, or rebab and guitar. I recently wrote a piece performed at the Sydney Opera House that was based on a Japanese folk song, so there was a story embedded in the piece that would attract the audience.” Making use of familiar elements to introduce audiences to unfamiliar styles is a common tactic of Kaya’s: “I try to mix different concepts according to the circumstances.”

For Kaya, a willingness to mix and experiment while staying grounded in the tradition of Western classical music is paramount to revitalizing interest in the genre. Ultimately, in his opinion, classical music “should be something people can relate to,” neither too modern and abstract nor trapped “in the style of an era remote from the present.” Kaya believes engagement should be a central goal of classical music, and that “the best way of continuing the Western classical music tradition and of influencing the audience is performing not just the works that only the composer will understand and appreciate, but works that the audience can grasp and appreciate as well.”

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