A Musical Life with Hugh Sung

Pianist Hugh Sung shares stories about making music and what moves our souls. Featuring interviews with musicians from a wide variety of genres, including Classical, Folk, Rock, Jazz, and beyond. Visit for all episodes and show notes. New episodes coming every Monday.
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Now displaying: 2016
Dec 19, 2016
Tom Di Nardo, Arts Writer and Author

For 40 years, Tom Di Nardo has covered the Philadelphia arts scene through his articles in the Bulletin and the Philadelphia Daily News. Tom recently published two new books: “Listening To Musicians”, a compilation of interviews and reflections on the conductors, musicians and artists associated with The Philadelphia Orchestra, and “Performers Tell Their Stories”, where Tom gets to share stories from his interactions with artists from the classical, jazz, opera, ballet, and pop worlds. 


Listening to Musicians

Performers Tell Their Stories

Dec 12, 2016
Alan Morrison, Organist

Alan Morrison is recognized as one of America's premier concert organists, performing in prestigious concert organ venues across the United States and in Canada, as well as in international festivals. Alan is currently the head of the organ department at The Curtis Institute of Music, and is a faculty member of Westminster Choir College and College Organist at Ursinus College.

I had the good fortune of attending The Curtis Institute of Music at the same time as Alan Morrison, who in reality is a triple threat as an organist, collaborative pianist, and harpsichordist. Alan was a close friend of Fred Rogers, and even appeared on a few episodes of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” back in 1994. If you don’t know anything about the organ, you’re in for a real treat with this interview, as Alan helps us unpack what all those thousands of buttons and switches do and all the components that make the organ the true “king of instruments”. 


Alan's website:


Dec 5, 2016
Frederic Chiu, Polymath Pianist

Frederic Chiu is one of those renaissance polymath pianists for whom music is a prism for exploring life in its totality. From recording the entire oeuvre of Prokofiev’s piano literature to exploring the relationships between disparate cultures, interests in computer science and artificial intelligence, and even using the principles of cooking to explore deep learning principles, Frederic is a fascinating example of what a beautiful mind looks like in the world of music.

Frederic Chiu’s latest album, “Distant Voices”, is a fascinating amalgam of exploring deep connections between diverse musical cultures while stretching the boundaries of music technologies - and even time travel - with the use of Yamaha’s DCFX, a Disklavier concert piano that features the world’s most advanced reproducing technologies where the subtlest keystrokes and pedal actions are captured in incredibly high resolution. The result is a blended experience, where listeners can have the option to watch Frederic on video connected to a Yamaha Disklavier piano that can play back a perfectly captured synchronized performance.


Frederic's website:

Beechwood Arts:

Beechwood Arts' Facebook page:[759463819%2C%22intro_card%22%2C%7B%7D]&pnref=lhc

Classical Smackdown:


Nov 28, 2016
David Steinbuhler

Pianists with small hands have to overcome considerable physical challenges in order to be able to play great literature for the piano. Oftentimes those challenges lead to muscle strain and even career-ending injuries. To address the unique needs of smaller hands, engineer and business owner David Steinbuhler collaborated with pianist Christopher Donison in 1991 to develop a new set of standard sizes and prototypes of smaller piano keyboards.

The magic for creating these smaller keyboards takes place in David Steinbuhler's Titusville, Pennsylvania ribbon factory, a family-run business that has been around since 1897 . Step inside and you'll see thousands and thousands of spools of ribbons and rolls of string made to create those ribbons, along with an endless array of machinery, much of it custom built by David's grandfather and uncle. Because they need to make their own parts and tools, David's factory uses a number of specialized machines called CNC, or Computer Numeric Control machines, which use computers to precisely design and cut out parts from wood.

David's piano keyboard workshop can be found on the second floor of his factory, surrounded by old pianos and tools used to create his custom Donison Steinbuhler smaller sized keyboards.

Note: This episode was originally produced as a video documentary. Be sure to visit to watch the full video.


Steinbuhler & Company Website:

PASK Pianists for Alternatively Sized Keyboards website:


Nov 21, 2016
Kayhan Kalhor, Master of Persian Music and the Kamancheh

Kayhan Kalhor is one of the greatest living masters of the Kamancheh, a 3 or 4 stringed Persian spiked fiddle and ancient predecessor to the modern cello. Kayhan performs around the world extensively as a soloist and collaborator with a wide variety of musicians, including Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road ensemble.

The kamancheh is an incredibly soulful, deeply expressive instrument that can sound like the human voice or a woodwind instrument in the right hands. Talking with Kayhan gave me a wonderful opportunity to explore the world of Persian classical music, a field that is completely new to me, with an outside perspective that I imagine might be similar to someone who doesn’t know anything about Western classical music. What should I be listening for? What are the elements helpful to understand so that I can gain a deeper appreciation for the beautiful sounds I hear?


Kayhan's website:

Silk Road Project:


Nov 14, 2016
Hector Olivera, Organist

Hector Olivera was a child prodigy on the organ, having performed for the likes of Eva Perón, the first lady of Argentina, when he was only five. Hector has since become an international sensation, performing on all the great cathedral organs around the world, as well as embracing the possibilities of digital organs with his stunning live performances of classical as well as popular and movie transcriptions.

The mighty pipe organ has been hailed as the “king of instruments”, with its ability to reproduce the sounds of entire orchestras, and actually has been in existence since the time of the ancient Greeks. Throughout its history, the organ represented the cutting edge of technological and musical capabilities. It’s rather curious that in recent times, with the advent of digital organ technologies that simulate the massive pipe structures and add more sound and performance capabilities, there has been quite a bit of resistance from traditional organists to embrace these newer, smaller instruments. Hector Olivera is a remarkable musician who freely embraces both traditional and digital perspectives, and his performances leave you wondering, “how is it possible that one person could play all those instrument sounds all at once?”


Hector's Website:


Nov 7, 2016
Seymour Lipkin Tribute

Seymour Lipkin was an esteemed faculty member of the Juilliard School and The Curtis Institute of Music. His understated persona coupled with a towering intellect resulted in a passionate fidelity to the composer’s intent on the score, as can be heard in his complete recordings of the Beethoven and Schubert piano sonatas. A longtime director of the Kneisel Hall summer chamber music festival in Blue Hill, Maine, Mr. Lipkin died near his beloved festival last year at the age of 88.

On Wednesday, Nov. 9 at 7:30 pm, there will be a memorial concert in honor of Seymour Lipkin at Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall, featuring his former piano students Koji Attwood, Steve Beck, Andrius Zlabys, Jenny Q. Chai, Rieko Aizawa, Lora Tchekoratova, and Ieva Jokubaviciute, with Laurie Smukler on Violin and Joel Krosnick on Cello. Visit for tickets and information.


Seymour Lipkin's Website: 

Oct 31, 2016
Musicologist Mark Samples

History is full of stories of great musicians with financial struggles - Beethoven, Schubert, even Mozart was said to have been buried in a pauper’s grave. The image of the “starving artist” tries to glorify the idea that great musicians are supposed to sacrifice everything in pursuit of their art and not expect any commercial gain, much less “stain” themselves with mundane business pursuits. But we forget that before these great musicians of the past were immortalized for their music, they too had to face the same career struggles as today’s musicians to find work, make money, and get recognized. And then there are the amazing success stories of musicians like soprano Jenny Lind, the 19th century “Sweedish Nightingale”, who earned an astonishing $9 million from her tour of North America. Musicologist Mark Samples has been studying the careers of the great musicians of the past, and has some fascinating takeaways for today’s musicians to help them break out of the “starving artist” mindset and show how both artistic and financial success don’t need to be mutually exclusive.


Mark's Website:


Oct 24, 2016
Sean Perrin, host of the Clarineat Podcast

Sean Perrin is the host of "Clarineat", a popular podcast show dedicated to all things related to the clarinet. Sean's debut CD, “Dreamsongs”, hit the top of the Canadian Jazz charts when it was released, and features a unique mix of arrangements of Chick Corea and Phillip Glass songs performed on clarinet, marimba and vibraphone. If you’re a musician thinking about recording a CD, you’ll find this interview with Sean really informative. He managed to get his project funded through a series of grants, scholarships, and a Kickstarter campaign that raised 127% of its goal. His podcast, “Clarineat”, features interviews with some of the leading clarinet players, teachers, manufacturers, and thought leaders affecting the clarinet world.


Sean's "Clarineat" podcast and blog:

Dreamsongs on iTunes:



Oct 17, 2016
Andrew Hitz, host of The Entrepreneurial Musician Podcast

Andrew Hitz was a 14 year member of the Boston Brass before leaving to become an musical entrepreneur, podcast host, and co-founder of Pedal Note Media, a digital media company providing products and programs to educate, entertain and inspire music teachers, players and fans.

We’re continuing our month-long series on music podcasters and entrepreneurs. Most classical musicians dream of winning a major orchestra job or touring the world as a soloist or with a successful ensemble. But after 14 years of being on the road 200 days out of the year, Andrew Hitz decided that he wanted to find a different path that would enable him to entertain, teach and inspire more musicians and fans while giving him more time to spend with his family. Hold onto your horses and get a pencil or your favorite note taking app ready - what you’re about to listen to is the equivalent of a 1 hour crash course equivalent to a full MBA, marketing degree, and a primer on what you need to start your own podcast.


Andrew Hitz's website:

The Entrepreneurial Musician Podcast

The Brass Junkies Podcast

Pedal Note Media:

Oct 10, 2016
Seth Hanes, Author of

Seth Hanes is a musician, digital marketing consultant, speaker, and founder of, As a digital marketing consultant, Seth has worked with multi-million dollar organizations, book publishers, and musicians from ensembles like the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. His new book, “Break Into The Scene”, is a guide for musicians looking to start their careers and create their own opportunities in music.

We’re continuing with our special series on music podcasters and entrepreneurs. With all the recent news of orchestras going on strike or struggling to stay afloat, most classical musicians - particularly students - might find themselves asking some difficult existential questions. Not so with my guest, Seth Hanes, who instead sees all of this as a huge opportunity to learn more about how music organizations really work, how to solve their problems, and taking what he’s learned to help other musicians take control over their lives and careers.


"Break Into The Scene" book

"Break Into The Scene" Webinar - Thursday, Oct. 13, 9 pm EST

Seth's website:


Oct 3, 2016
Jason Heath, host of Contrabass Conversations

Jason Heath is a freelance double bass player who started his Contrabass Conversations podcast way back in 2007, nearly 10 years ago. Now with well over a million downloads, Jason’s incredibly popular podcast is the Internet’s most comprehensive resource on all people and topics related to life and music around the double bass.

This month, we’re going to be exploring the world of music podcasters and entrepreneurs, starting with Jason Heath, who has I believe the longest running classical music podcast show around, nearly 10 years running, with over 250 episodes and well over a million and a half downloads at the time of this broadcast. An interesting historical sidenote: former MTV VJ Adam Curry is credited with being one of the initial pioneers of podcasting, and launched what many believe to be the first podcast show produced on a regular basis, Daily Source Code, back in 2004. Podcasts are essentially “radio shows” that you can listen to either directly on a web page or on a smartphone or MP3 player. The beauty of podcasts is the fact that anyone can produce and distribute their own shows. This can be an inexpensive, yet powerful way to get your name out, reach a worldwide audience, and connect with the movers and shakers of whatever musical niche you’re passionate about. For Jason Heath, podcasting has been a way for him to do all of those things and more, enabling him to extend his freelance double bass career far beyond what’s normally possible.


Contrabass Conversations Podcast:

Jason's websites:

"How To Create A Podcast" articles on ArtsHacker:

Sep 26, 2016
Laura Karlin, Choreographer and Founder of Invertigo Dance Theatre

Invertigo Dance Theatre was recently named by Dance Spirit Magazine as one of the “top six trend-setting companies to watch in LA.” Founded by choreographer Laura Karlin, Invertigo uses dance to tell compelling stories and create deep connections with communities. One of the most fascinating aspects of Invertigo is that they perform with live musicians, and even use musicians who double as dancers in their productions.

One of my goals with this show is to bridge boundaries and showcase a wide variety of musical styles and perspectives. As a musician, it’s easy to overlook the symbiotic relationship between music and the movement arts. To that end, I’m delighted to present this interview with Laura Karlin and my first inside look at the inner workings of a dance company, Invertigo Dance Theatre, with their innovative use of live music and musicians as integral components of their performances. Their upcoming production of “After It Happened”, a piece inspired by the aftermath of the Haiti Earthquake, and set to premiere at the Ford Theater in Los Angeles this Friday, Sept. 30.


Invertigo Dance Theater's website:


Sep 19, 2016
Gary Lionelli, Composer for

Film and television composer Gary Lionelli created the music for ESPN’s critically acclaimed five-part miniseries “O.J.: Made in America,” directed by Ezra Edelman. In addition, he has provided music for Rory Kennedy's 2015 Academy Award nominated film "Last Days in Vietnam" and HBO's dramatic series "LUCK," starring Dustin Hoffman.

Most television projects for composers involve providing music for 30-60 minutes of show time. Most movie projects call for music for 1.5-2 hours. But what if you were approached to write music for a massive 7.5 hour movie, and given only 3 months to do so? That’s what composer Gary Lionelli faced when he was called on to provide music for the massive ESPN mini-series, “O.J.: Made in America”, a project that has the unique distinction of being eligible to win both television Emmy and film Oscar awards.


Gary's Website:

Jonathan Wilson, creator of the GuitarViol:

Sep 12, 2016
Anthony McGill, Clarinetist

Anthony McGill is one of the greatest clarinetists in the classical music field today. He’s been the Associate Principal Clarinet of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Principal Clarinet of the Metropolitan Orchestra, and currently serves as Principal Clarinet of the New York Philharmonic.

Several months ago, Anthony’s older brother, Demarre McGill, was featured on the show. What an honor to have the opportunity to talk to Anthony, whom I’ve known since he was a student at Curtis. In addition to his remarkable achievements in the orchestral world and collaborations with some of the greatest classical musicians, Anthony performed with Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma and Gabriela Montero at the inauguration of President Barack Obama back in 2009. On a tangential note, Anthony was actually partially responsible for inspiring me to become a paperless musician, and start a little company called “AirTurn” to create wireless page turning pedals for reading digital sheet music hands free.


Anthony's website:

Mozart Clarinet Quintet in A major, K. 581: I. Allegro
Mozart Clarinet Concerto in A major, K. 622: II. Adagio
Brahms Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115: IV. Con moto
Poulenc Sonata for Clarinet and Piano: II. Romanza

Anthony's blog article "Why I Do What I Do"

New York Philharmonic website:




Jul 18, 2016
Summer Break 2016

Welcome to A Musical Life. I'm Hugh Sung, host and executive producer of the show. Due to my teaching and performance schedule this summer, we'll be taking a short summer hiatus. But don't worry! We'll be back in just a few weeks. 

To be notified as soon as the episodes resume, visit to sign up for our newsletter.

Thank you for your support! I wish you a restful summer and A Musical Life!


Jul 11, 2016
Jennifer Nicole Campbell's Music Musings on

“Clair de lune” by late 19th and early 20th century French composer Claude Debussy is one of the world’s most beloved pieces written for the piano. In this special episode of “A Musical Life”, I’ve invited award-winning pianist, composer, and Peabody Conservatory graduate Jennifer Nicole Campbell to share her insights into what makes “Clair de lune” such a special musical experience.

On this show, we share stories about making music and the things that move our souls. Up to this point, these stories have been centered around musicians and composers living remarkable lives and creating incredible musical experiences. For this episode, I thought we’d try something a little different. Music is a fascinating language, and even when there aren’t any words being sung, you can definitely sense an atmosphere, characters, and a narrative arc being created through the collage of sounds, silence, and time. But like any language, it really helps when you understand the syntax and meaning to fully appreciate and enjoy the poetry of sound we call music. To that end, I’m delighted to introduce you to today’s guest artist and music “translator”.

Jennifer Nicole Campbell is a remarkable young pianist, composer and educator who recently launched a new series of videos called, “Music Musings”. Her first episode tells the musical story of “Clair de lune”, by Claude Debussy. She did such a wonderful job explaining the inner workings of this popular piece that I invited her to be a guest contributor for the show.


Jennifer's website:

Jennifer Nicole Campbell's Music Musings, Episode 1:

"Clair de lune From Scratch" YouTube piano lessons:


Jul 4, 2016
Norman Lebrecht, A Prolific Musical Mind

Norman Lebrecht is one of the foremost cultural writers and classical music reviewers today.  In addition to his columns for The Daily Telegraph and The Standpoint, he’s been a host on BBC 3 Radio, and his first novel, “The Song of Names”, is in the process of being adapted into a major motion picture. Norman has written extensively on the business side of classical music, and his website, Slipped Disc, is one of the most widely read resources for classical music and art news.

Journalist, writer, novelist, broadcaster, lecturer - Norman Lebrecht is easily one of the most prolific commentators on culture and the classical music arts. In addition to all his accomplishments and 12 books under his belt, Norman is an expert on the music of the 19th century Austrian-Jewish composer and conductor Gustav Mahler. I think you’re going to really enjoy this fascinating conversation with a man who has spent his life exploring the meaning and message found in classical music.


Norman's Website:

The Lebrecht Interview on BBC Radio 3:

Jun 27, 2016
Pieter Schlosser, Composer

Pieter Schlosser is an award-winning film, television and video game composer known for his work on NBC's hit show You, Me And The Apocalypse, as well as his collaborations with Steve Jablonsky on Desperate Housewives, the Transformers film, and Gears of War 2 & 3 video games. As a multi-cultural multi-instrumentalist, Pieter draws on an incredible reservoir of creativity and artistic versatility.

I really love these shows where we get to talk to amazing composers and explore the creative process and inspirations behind their work. Pieter Schlosser is one of those musicians that needs the prefix “multi” in front of their name - multi-linguist, multi-genre, multi-talented. And a great suffix for him would probably be, “go-getter” - time and time again, Pieter’s initiative has served him well, putting him in the company of great film composers like Hans Zimmer and opening some incredible opportunities in film, TV, and video games.


Pieter's Website:

8Dio high-end sample developer of virtual instruments:

In Saturn's Rings film project:



Jun 20, 2016
Rachel Barton Pine, Violin Virtuosa

Violinist, scholar, composer, philanthropist, and heavy metal shredder Rachel Barton Pine is a one-of-a kind musical tour de force, connecting a wide array of cultures, genres, and communities. Despite tremendous childhood difficulties and a major setback early in her career, Rachel drew upon a profound spiritual resource to become one of today’s leading musicians and an inspiration to so many worldwide.

Rachel Barton Pine is, quite simply, one of the most extraordinary musicians I’ve had the honor to feature on the show. As a violinist, she has recorded nearly 30 albums and performed with major symphony orchestras and conductors worldwide. As a scholar, she has championed the music of black composers and pioneering women. On top of that, she has the distinction of being the first living and first female composer to have her violin cadenzas, encores, and arrangements of works for violin and piano published by Carl Fischer Music as part of its Masters Collection. Her musical styles cover the gamut between baroque and contemporary classical composers, and wait until you hear about her passion for heavy metal! Her latest album, Testament, was recorded at her home church in Chicago where she fell in love with the violin and the music of Bach as a child, and was recently the best selling classical album.


Rachel's website:

Rachel Elizabeth Barton Foundation:


Jun 13, 2016
Jason Graves, Video Game Composer

Jason Graves is a BAFTA award-winning composer behind some of the most popular video games such as the Dead Space series, the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider, and more recently Far Cry Primal, which was just published by Ubisoft earlier this year. Jason combines modern classical composition techniques with innovative sound designs to create scores that are incredibly visceral and immersive.

Video games are a 101 billion dollar industry worldwide. To put this into perspective, the video game industry by some estimates is twice as large as the movie industry.  As games become more and more immersive with photorealistic graphics and compelling storylines, high production quality demands a great music score. This is where my guest Jason Graves comes in. A classically- trained composer and world percussionist, Jason has written music for film, TV, and nearly 80 games, and has won BAFTA awards and nominations for his work on the Dead Space and Tomb Raider games. For his work on Far Cry: Tribal, a game set in the stone age, Jason created an entirely organic score, blending sounds created from natural materials, such as wood, bushes, bones, antlers, clay pots, as well as a ram’s horn, wooden flutes, female vocals, and an instrument called an Aztec Death Whistle.


Jason's Website:

Jason's Banoffee Pie Recipe on Facebook:

Far Cry: Primal from Ubisoft:


Jun 6, 2016
Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Project

World renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma established Silkroad in 1998 to explore how music can advance global understanding. Since 2000, the musicians of the world music collective, Silk Road Ensemble, have been on a mission to change the world by connecting diverse cultures and traditions in performances, workshops, and residencies.

Yo-Yo Ma and the Grammy-nominated Silk Road Ensemble recently released their sixth album, "Sing Me Home", which was developed and recorded alongside "The Music of Strangers", a new documentary movie from Oscar and Emmy-winning director Morgan Neville that tells the story of the Ensemble and Silkroad, its parent organization. "The Music of Strangers" is slated for theatrical release later this week, and is one of the most breathtaking, beautiful, and moving documentaries I have ever seen. In this episode, we'll meet some of the remarkable musicians featured prominently in the film, and listen to excerpts from "Sing Me Home", an album which explores the musical roots of individual members of the Ensemble.


The Silk Road Project website:

Yo-Yo Ma's website:


May 30, 2016
Greg Sandow, Classical Music Futurist and Thought Leader

Music critic and composer Greg Sandow has written extensively on the future of classical music. As a critic, Greg covered new classical music in The Village Voice and was senior music editor for Entertainment Weekly. As a thought leader, Greg works on defining the problems in classical music and finding innovative solutions for them.

What if orchestras could perform in stadiums packed with 20,000 passionate fans and had all their financial problems solved? What would that look like? How could they make that dream come true? This is the kind of question that Greg Sandow poses to major symphony orchestras and classical music institutions to help them explore innovative solutions to make their art more relevant and fiscally solvent in today’s cultural climate. Nowadays, Greg is returning to his composer roots, and recently had a “reemergence” with a full recital featuring his works at The Mansion at Strathmore in Maryland.


Greg's Website:

Greg's Program Notes from his Reemergence Recital at The Mansion at Strathmore
April 14, 2016:



May 23, 2016
Peter Schickele, Composer & P.D.Q. Bach Specialist

Composer Peter Schickele has written over 100 works for a wide variety of orchestral, chamber, and vocal ensembles and genres, as well as scores for film and television. As the world’s leading - ah, make that, only - authority on P.D.Q. Bach, the oddest of J.S. Bach’s 20-odd children, Professor Shickele has for the past 50 years unwittingly lampooned classical music culture with his mis-discoveries of works for such bizarre instruments as the left handed sewer flute, the windbreaker, and the bicycle siren.

Peter Schickele has been one of my musical heroes since childhood, ever since my first general music teacher played one of his P.D.Q. Bach albums in class and had everyone howling with laughter! From his humble beginnings as the only bassoon player in Fargo, North Dakota, to his collaborations with legendary folk singer Joan Baez and score for the seminal sci-fi movie, “Silent Running”, as well as his long-running radio show, “Schickele Mix” on Public Radio International, Peter Schickele is perhaps best known for his comedic persona as P.D.Q. Bach, the 21st of J.S. Bach’s 20 children, and the only “dead” composer who can still take commissions. What a thrill to have Peter and P.D.Q. on my show!


Peter Schickele's/P.D.Q. Bach's Website:


May 16, 2016
Rendra Zawawi, Malaysian Musician, Composer & Producer

Rendra Zawawi co-wrote and co-produced, “Arena Chahaya”, the theme song for the 2016 Malaysian soccer movie, “Ola Bola”, sung by Zee Avi. As a Magna Cum Laude graduate of the Berklee School of Music, Rendra brings an astonishing diversity of styles to his music and career.

We’re continuing our series on Musical Entrepreneurs. As I mentioned in the intro, Rendra Zawawi is one of the most diverse musicians I’ve come across. Hold on to your hats, cause we’re going to be listening to a really wide variety of musical styles that Rendra writes and produces. And later in the episode, I’m going to introduce another special guest who has created a fascinating music consultation company for corporations, where Rendra works as a branding expert.


Rendra's Website:

Sound Leadership:


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