On Oct. 29, 1994, XIE Tan (Gordon Lee) held a Pipa recital at the San Jose State University concert hall to celebrate the completion of his graduate study. Soon afterwards Lee started teaching music in his studio Eastern Music Center. By organizing his students to perform at Summer Chinese Festival in History Park, San Jose, he built the first appearance of a small Chinese orchestra.
XIE and his group played at the Moon Festival in Memorial Park, Cupertino on Sep. 9, 2000. The students expressed their unanimous desire to stay together as a team after the show. Firebird Youth Chinese Orchestra (FYCO) was thus born, spontaneously. Thanks to the sponsorship from San Jose City College, FYCO has run its education program in the Music Department since 2002. Beginning with 1 teacher, 1 class, and 20 students, the program have expanded to 14 teachers, 5 level-groups, 40 classes, and 120 students within a decade.
Invited by the Ministry of Culture, FYCO visited three top conservatories of music in China in 2004. This last summer, FYCO represented Santa Clara, visiting sister county and cities in Taiwan. Arts Council Silicon Valley proclaimed FYCO as a “local treasure,” and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) praised it as “one of the very few ensembles in the United States dedicated to educating young people, their families and communities through traditional Chinese music, and is carrying out its mission with great success.” The orchestra has been featured on newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, including ABC, KQED, KTSF, KICU, KTEH, CCTV (China Central Television), Hong Kong Phoenix, Taiwan United News, and Phoenix North America.
Through collaborations and cultural exchange activities, XIE Tan worked with a number of symphonies, orchestras, and conservatories of music. With his unique vision and experience, he intends to open a music school and a youth symphony orchestra to better serve the community and benefit more students from all cultural backgrounds and all ages. His proposal was approved by the Board of Trustees on Nov. 16, 2013.
Born in Beijing with a Sichuan origin, XIE Tan learned the Erhu from his mother in his childhood. In 1969, he went to a farm located in the border between Russia and China, working in a Peking Opera troupe as a composer, conductor, and Pipa player. In 1973, XIE studied Chinese music at Sichuan Conservatory of Music under Professor Chen Jilue, the founder and conductor of the first professional Chinese orchestra in China in 1930-40’s. As his mentor for 16 years, Professor Chen was the most influential scholar to XIE.
Mostly by private lessons, XIE Tan studied traditional Chinese operatic music, composition, conducting, and Chinese instruments. His teachers include He Wei, Chinese operatic music professor in Central Chinese Opera Institute; Xie Zhennan, composition professor in Sichuan Conservatory of Music; Dr. Tikey Zes, composition professor in San Jose State University; Xu Xin, conducting professor in Central Conservatory of Music; and Wang Fandi, Pipa professor in China Conservatory of Music. In 1978, XIE entered China Pingju Opera Theater in Beijing as a professional Pipa player. He came to the United States for his art study in 1989, and received an MA degree in 1995. His thesis won the outstanding thesis award in San Jose State University.
XIE started teaching music in San Francisco Bay Area in 1994 and opened his studio Eastern Music Center the year after. In 2000 he founded Firebird Youth Chinese Orchestra (FYCO) and in 2013, Aimusic School. Since 2002, he has been the Chinese music instructor at San Jose City College. As the artistic and executive director, XIE leads FYCO as one of a few Asian-American organizations in the nation to be awarded by arts agencies from city to federal government levels. Individually, he received an “Investing in the Artists” grant award from Center for Cultural Innovation in 2008, a “Composer Assistant Program” award from American Music Center in 2009, and an “Arts Leadership Award” from Arts Council Silicon Valley in 2010. He was invited by China Broadcasting Chinese Orchestra as a key speaker in “Peng Xiuwen Traditional Chinese Orchestral Music Arts International” in 2007, and by the State Council to participate “China Cultural Tour” in 2008.
XIE started composing in the early 1970’s. He wrote a number of folksongs, choir, and instrumental music for combined Chinese and Western instruments.
His compositions include: