Duy Tran

Duy Tran, Violin & Clarinet

When he was 6 years old, Duy and his family moved from Saigon, Vietnam to Fort Smith, Arkansas (third largest city in the State). A long journey to an unlikely town—yet in a State that has become home to many Vietnamese. And what you should do there as a kid is…play clarinet of course.

Duy started playing clarinet in junior high, in the school’s concert band. But for playing in the high school marching band, he switched to piccolo “because it’s difficult to play a reed instrument outside, he says “and, besides, you can’t hear them. Everyone can hear the piccolo!”

Duy went off to Arizona State University where he majored in clarinet performance. And then to make an actual living, switched to the sciences, which had always appealed to him. Off to Columbia University in New York City for a degree in Human Nutrition. While there, he played clarinet in the orchestra and took classes in flute performance.

Next, Temple University in Philadelphia for a Doctorate in Clinical Pharmacology and post-doc work at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. And while there he played clarinet the Philadelphia Wind Symphony and in the Orchestra Society of Philadelphia, a reading orchestra—where he realized that the violins got to play a whole lot more notes than he did. “I got a little jealous while I was counting rests,” he says. Obviously the solution was to play violin!

And as luck would have it, he took lessons from Eunice Kim, our 2008 Youth Concerto Competition winner, who was then studying at the Curtis Institute of Music.

Duy was recruited to come to the Bay Area and work as a clinical pharmacologist, focused on liver cancer drugs (his father had died of liver cancer so it’s an especially meaningful effort for him).

“There’s so much music here—so many opportunities to play,” Duy says. He joined us on violin when we resumed playing after our pandemic-shutdown. In addition to Prometheus, where he mainly plays violin (he played Eb clarinet for “Dance of the Seven Veils” last season and will play that again in the upcoming “Stravinsky Rite of Spring”), Duy is principal clarinet for the Chabot Wind Symphony and teaches bamboo flute at the Vietnamese Cultural Center in San Francisco (also arranging folk music for the group to play).

He enjoys the mix of two instruments. “I love clarinet, but violin exposes me to music that I can’t play on clarinet, like Baroque. And in Prometheus we really get a chance to take a deep dive into the music.” Duy he recently bought a house and now calls the Bay Area home. Welcome home Duy!

Joyce Vollmer

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