Greensboro events feature actor Ken Jeong via film
GREENSBORO — Actor Ken Jeong and his hometown are showing each other a lot of love these days. Comic Ken Jeong — famous for his comedic roles in “The Hangover” film trilogy and as television’s “Dr. Ken” — welcomes visitors via video to the Greensboro History Museum’s exhibition, “Second Generation: Asian American.”
Told from the viewpoint of city residents of Asian heritage, the exhibition displays a clip, a script, photos and costumes from ABC’s “Dr. Ken” sitcom.Comic Ken Jeong, who is a physician, played one on television in ABC’s sitcom, “Dr. Ken.” Jeong was raised in Greensboro and attended Page High School.
Jeong actually is a physician by training. Born in Detroit 48 years ago to Korean immigrants D.K. and Young Jeong, he grew up in Greensboro and attended Page High School, where he played violin in the orchestra. He graduated from Duke University and then from medical school at UNC-Chapel Hill.
But fame came with his appearances on the big and small screen. Now he will lend those talents to the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra. Come September, Jeong will appear via film in a groundbreaking concert by the orchestra.
To open its 2017-18 season, the symphony will bring a revolutionary hybrid film/concert experience to the Carolina Theatre.
The performances on Sept. 28 and 30 will mark the world orchestral premiere of “Not So Classical,” an approach created by a Cincinnati-based filmmaker to attract broader and younger audiences. “It will put Greensboro on the map for the orchestra community in a huge way,” said Daniel Crupi, the orchestra’s chief operating officer.
“It’s a unique concert format, an opportunity to work with a renowned producer and a big celebrity,” Crupi added. “But it’s also an investment in our future, to position us well to succeed in the digital market.” The concerts will intersperse live classical music with filmed interviews that talk about the city and its orchestra, and how music impacts different stages of life.
Dmitry Sitkovetsky is a violinist and the conductor of the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra. Interviews feature Symphony Music Director Dmitry Sitkovetsky, community leaders, board members, musicians and members of its young professionals’ group, Vivace. And of course, Jeong and his father. D.K. Jeong retired N.C. A&T economics professor is a symphony board member.
Crupi said he hopes that Jeong will attend the premiere, although it’s too early to tell. Although “Dr. Ken” ended in the spring, Jeong has been filming other movies.
Watch the trailer
In a soon-to-be-released trailer promoting “Not So Classical,” Jeong talks about the influence of music in his life and career. He started piano lessons at age 6. “I think the musical gene came from my mom, and my dad has a deep appreciation for classical music,” he says.
“When I think of my own acting, and when I think of being on a movie set or being on a TV set, I think in terms of music, I think in terms of flow,” Jeong adds. “There’s a rhythm, there’s a music, there’s a cadence to it, and whether I know it or not, you are always looking for that flow artistically. I think that comes back from my music background.”
To create the program, the symphony has worked with filmmaker David Donnelly. Donnelly is best known for his 2015 documentary film, “Maestro.” It follows conductor Paavo Järvi with other music superstars around the globe, chronicling the ups and downs of the life of a classical musician. Donnelly and his production company, Culture Monster, focus on helping classical music re-brand itself. “There is a missing opportunity to connect with a broader audience, with a younger audience,” Donnelly said from Cincinnati. “There are still plenty of people of all ages that, if properly introduced, would really fall in love with it.”
With his “Not So Classical” approach of interspersing classical music with film, Donnelly so far has featured two soloists, saxophonist Amy Dickson and violinist Tatiana Berman.
Greensboro marks the first time that he has taken it to an orchestra. He came to know the city through the manager of Sitkovetsky, a renowned London-based violinist and conductor who performs and conducts around the globe.
“He understands that there have to be risks taken by orchestras if they want to be competitive,” Donnelly said. The program opens with a short film. “It puts you in a certain mood and primes you for a piece of music that you are about to hear,” Donnelly said. The symphony then will perform a classical work, followed by a short film, a classical piece and so forth. The program will feature Haydn’s Overture to the opera “Lo Speziale,” Chopin’s Prelude No. 15 for string orchestra, Borodin’s Symphony No. 2 and Mozart’s Violin Concerto, on which Sitkovetsky will solo with the orchestra.
“The music is still classical, but we present it in a way that’s different,” said Donnelly, who will return in early September to finish filming. “Everything from the lighting to the entire experience is somewhat designed.”
Donnelly said he discovered while filming “Maestro” that orchestras struggle for attendance in part because concerts are too long. The entire “Not So Classical” program will run about 90 minutes with no intermission. “Ideally people will be left wanting more,” Donnelly said.
The symphony opted to move the concerts downtown to the Carolina Theatre from its regular venue of Dana Auditorium at Guilford College. The Carolina has a rich history as a grand old movie house, as well as more advanced film technology. And the symphony wanted to appeal to Millennials.
“We are treating like red carpet premiere and wanted that kind of vibe for this event,” Crupi said.
The concerts will cost about $138,000, which includes an extra $40,000 to cover film production. The Cemala Foundation, Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, Joseph M. Bryan Jr. Foundation through ArtsGreensboro, Greensboro Are Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Downtown Greensboro Inc. have helped cover the extra costs. The CVB grant will hire a New York public relations firm to bring the project national attention.
“When the orchestra takes chances like this, they really need the support of the community,” Donnelly said. “We want to get people coming to this who have never been to a concert before... Maybe they’ll come back for other concerts if they hear a composer that they like.”
Jeong adds his comic touch to the trailer’s pitch. “Bring some more friends,” he says. “It’s not a pyramid scheme. You’re just appreciating music.”