Taylor Kang '23
Music was the language through which Taylor Kang ‘23 found her voice. As a quiet and reserved elementary-schooler, she discovered how music, and being a part of an orchestra, offered her a wordless connection to the world.
“The community aspect of being a part of something bigger really resonated with me,” she said. “I really feel that music has the power to change people, perspectives, and invoke feelings in ways that are difficult to describe, and that’s what I love about [it].”
Kang became fascinated with music through the challenge and rigor of competition. Hailing just thirty minutes from Swarthmore, she participated in district, region, and state competitions and played with the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra (PYO) in high school. Playing side by side with the Philadelphia Orchestra in PYO was a formative musical experience for Kang.
Before his life was cut short by cancer, Kang’s grandfather encouraged her mother to take up the flute. “It’s been said that he had always wanted to hear [my mother] play “Amazing Grace” (his favorite hymn) on the flute, but she never got the chance to learn.” says Kang.
Thirty years later, Kang is majoring in music and would like to think that her grandfather is listening. She began learning the flute in elementary school, and over the course of fourteen years has become inseparable from her instrument. “I’ve grown to love the timbre of the flute,” she said. “The variety of tone colors I can create with a simple change in embouchure, how it can sound beautiful in one piece and harsh and high-pitched in another.”
In her sophomore year, Kang transferred from Bryn Mawr College to Swarthmore, where she is pursuing a degree in music and math. She began her Swarthmore experience remotely due to COVID-19, and missed out on a traditional orientation. Once she finally arrived on campus in her junior year, she found her Swarthmore home in the Music Department, where she has been a part of the Fetter Chamber Music Program, Lab Orchestra, and the Swarthmore College Orchestra, among others.
“The Music Department really just helped me to feel a sense of belonging . . . I’ve never had a bad experience with anyone in the department.” Kang described the music community at Swarthmore as a close-knit family.
Kang is the winner of this year’s Concerto Competition, and in April she will be playing François Borne’s Fantaisie Brillante on Themes from Carmen with the Swarthmore College Orchestra. Having played in orchestras for many years, Kang is used to performing, but being in front of an orchestra as a soloist presents a different challenge from being in one.
“I’m nervous to perform with the orchestra, but I think it will be a really good opportunity - there’s an aspect that I didn’t get to experience before with the orchestra because I was kind of like in the grains of the orchestra and now it’ll be like working in conjunction with it. I think it’ll be a really exciting experience.”