Collaborative critique brings together craft and music

On a recent Monday evening, four Craft/Material Studies graduate students gathered in the Fine Arts Building to present and discuss their work. It was a standard meeting of their graduate critique class—with one exception. This time, several undergraduate music students were also in the room to observe the critique and perform an improvisational work in response the visual art on display.

The collaboration was the result of a developing partnership between Bohyun Yoon, associate professor of glass, and Ross Walter, associate professor of trombone, euphonium and tuba. The two met on the VCUarts Promotion and Tenure Committee, where Walter learned about Yoon’s glass instrument project. This past fall, Walter invited Yoon to present his work during the Brass Chamber Ensemble Concert.

“I am an art glass aficionado and these tubes make a fabulous sound that is similar to a brass instrument,” Walter says.

The two wanted to find more opportunities to bring together music and visual arts, particularly for their students. That’s how Walter’s jazz students landed in Yoon’s critique class.

Walter says his students benefit from observing a visual arts critique and drawing parallels to the vocabulary of critical review in music. Meanwhile, Yoon says the collaboration allowed his students to see their work from a new perspective.

“We always want to grow our skill of looking at our work from a more objective eye,” Yoon says, “to see how people who don’t have any art language can get information and engage with the work. They’re also interested in how the artwork translates through the music.”

Walter and Yoon hope this interdisciplinary critique is the first of many collaborations—whether that’s a public performance or an individual project between two students.

“Bo and I appreciate each other’s art and work, and we feel it is an enriching part of our lives to appreciate art in whatever way it is formed,” Walter says. “We hope to pass that on to our students.”