Courtesy of Charlie Gleberman
Caroline Ho’s music 22 blurs the lines between the 19th century and the 21st, fusing atmospheric synthesizer, classical and pop music. Every genre Ho listens to can be found in his compositions.
“She has an unmistakable ‘Caroline’ sound,” said Yale professor and film composer Konrad Kaczmarek. He said he suspected it came from his background as a classically trained cellist and pianist, improviser and music enthusiast. He said she had the “love” to study music theory but was open to all kinds of music.
Nanki Chugh ’22, who first played music with Ho in a college orchestra and has remained close friends with her ever since, also admires the way Ho weaves together diverse eras and genres. Chugh said that while Ho’s more recent pieces play with jazz and more contemporary classical techniques, they also have recurring melodies, not unlike the music of the Romantic era.
Ho’s father plays jazz bass as a hobby – she said that explains her love for jazz and possibly also her music absorption skills. She started taking piano lessons at the age of 5 and learned the cello at the age of 7. All she did after school was practice the cello. Around the age of 8, she began to compose, working diligently in the room where the family’s brown upright piano was located.
“I was the third child in my family, so I could spend as much time as I wanted in that room, and no one would notice,” Ho recalled.
When Ho was 13, a UCLA professor came across one of his compositions and asked to premiere it at a concert in Italy. Then, at age 14, she saw a group of professionals perform the play in Siena in front of a large audience.
During her high school years, Ho continued to compose, concentrating from cello to piano. Ho said she practices the piano five to six hours a day and performs two to three times a week, traveling all over her home state of California.
When she was a senior in high school, Ho participated in a prestigious three-week international competition. The experience inspired her to take a gap year after high school. She described the competition as a turning point.
“I needed to take stock: ‘Do I want to go to a conservatory and do this for the rest of my life, or do I want to have a more complete education?’ “, she said.
During her gap year, Ho said she studied piano full time and felt a void in her life. Ho applied to Yale that year for its strong musical community and, after enrolling, fell in love with musical freedom in college – she could write a pop song one hour and write classical music the next. she says, or discussing the merits of two very different genres in the same conversation.
Ho started writing pop songs and collaborating with her friend Emily Li ’22. The two received an award from the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale intended to promote Asian Americans in the arts. With the funding, they staged a concert of original pieces centered on Asian American identity. The gig sold out and inspired them to start their band, Grove. Grove is inspired by jazz, classical, bluegrass, a cappella and theatrical traditions.
This semester, Ho is homeschooling Yale to work on his music portfolio. She incorporates more improvisation into her work and draws on the jazz that marked her childhood. Ho turns more and more to the composition for the cinema and even tries his hand at television music. She added that she was excited to maybe try a different genre: “Because, why not?”