Whether playing a musical composition on the violin or rolling molten glass to compose a new piece of art, Birmingham resident Andrew Wu sees overlaps in meaning and measure with both mediums.
"I found a lot of similarities between glass and music," Wu said. "You're constantly rotating the (glass) pipe, so having a good concept of rhythm really helps. Muscle memory and fine motor skills helps in both, and having spacial awareness plays a big part in it."
Wu began his musical training as a child at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and went on to become concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra before attending the University of Michigan. It was in Ann Arbor that Wu decided he would pursue a career in music.
"I thought I was going to go into physics, then I decided to double major in music," Wu said. "Then I dropped the science degree. Finally, I left with two master's degrees, one in violin performance and one in chamber music."
Wu said it was a resident administrator in his dorm that suggested he join the student orchestra.
"I realized I love performing, so why not get a music degree. It wasn't until the second term of my junior year that I knew music is what inspired me and made me happy," he said. "I couldn't see myself doing something else."
Wu was already playing some shows with the Michigan Opera Theatre, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and others when he decided to start taking glassblowing lessons about 2001 at the Michigan Hot Glass Workshop, in Detroit's Russell Industrial Center. In 2003, he began teaching glassblowing classes.
"Every movement shows up on the surface of the material. And in music, you're always aware of what you're doing, as well as what all your colleagues are doing," he said.
"It's really very rewarding, not just personally, but you can effect other people as well."
Wu's work has been shown in exhibits at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and galleries in Birmingham, Chicago and Rochester. Today, he limits time in the glass studio to Mondays, when he teaches and works on consignment work for private clients. The majority of his time, however, is devoted to music.
"Next season at the Michigan Opera Theatre is going to be really interesting," he said. "We are looking at works of literature that were turned into opera."
In addition to his position with the Michigan Opera Theatre, Wu serves as the director of the Baldwin String Ensemble. He is also working with a small group on a new project named Orchestra Sono, of which he will serve as concertmaster.
"The BBSO (Birmingham Bloomfield Symphony Orchestra) went dormant a few years ago," he said. "We reconvened with a group and are starting with a new vision. Hopefully, we are able to find a location by the end of this year and make it ready to start in the spring of 2019."
With music, Wu said he hopes to be able to connect audiences with the music in a way that allows them to understand how music is created by the musicians, as well as what inspired the composers who created the compositions.
"That's really what we are hoping for with Orchestra Sono," he said. "We are hoping to connect the audiences and our community in a positive way."
Photo: Laurie Tennent