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Happy Holidays

Dear Friends,

Ya-Ting and I hope that you had a healthy and happy year. I have never done a Christmas letter until now, but I feel compelled to try it because this year has been filled with some new intense experiences, both negative and positive, from the pain of my first real loss to the thrill of my first performance as a soloist with the Harrisburg Symphony after playing in the group for 20 years.

On January 1, 2016, while I was celebrating the New Year in Taipei, Taiwan, with Ya-Ting's parents and siblings in the room, and while talking to my parents and brother on Skype, I had no idea that it would be the last time I would see my 53-year old brother alive. Shortly after his sudden passing, I began a process of renewing my Russian passport, because as a dual citizen, I cannot travel to Russia on my American passport. Having been spared the joys of dealing with Russian bureaucracy for some time, I was promptly reminded in just one visit to the embassy why I haven't been back in 20 years. It takes almost as much time to get a new Russian passport as to have a baby, nearly 9 months.

On the home front, it has been a challenging year as well, from quite a few house emergency repairs (nothing brings one down from a high of performing Franck Piano Quintet than a phone message found backstage about serious plumbing problems) to our cat's brush with death, from which we were thankfully able to rescue him. Ya-Ting and I did get to spend time with people we love and particularly enjoyed watching the rapid development of our niece, Clarissa, who is turning four in a couple of days. We also saw some truly moving theater productions and concerts, played Mahjong for the first time in a decade and had some memorable meals and conversations with friends. It has been awhile since we assembled furniture together, and it was a fun project even though it took us two attempts since the manual was missing from the box when it arrived.

In our work at Market Square Concerts, this year brought us a regional arts award and our first two emergencies. The historic January blizzard forced us to reschedule one of the performances and a health crisis in one of the groups we were supposed to present required finding a replacement less than three weeks before the concert. We are grateful that both of these situations were resolved and that we only encountered them in our fifth year on the job. In October we joined Market Square Concerts' Board members and friends on a trip to London, which not only inspired us with the richness of artistic experiences, but also reminded us of how fortunate we are to be a part of organization that enjoys the support of so many wonderful people. It has been five years since Ya-Ting and I took a leap of faith without fully knowing whether or not we would be able to balance this job with our performing and teaching. Our students continue to inspire and frustrate us, and our 19th year of performing with the Mendelssohn Piano Trio brought a welcome opportunity to revisit some great pieces.

In August, we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the summer chamber music program we started at Messiah College in 2006 with a wonderful group of new participants. In September, we were privileged to be part of a special 9/11 Memorial concert performing Bartok's tremendous Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion and Brahms's Piano Quintet in the gorgeous Parmer Hall at Messiah College. While it was a somber occasion, witnessing the strong emotional response of many people who don't regularly listen to classical music was truly rewarding. As I am getting ready to play my 340th Nutcracker show at Hershey Theater this weekend, I feel grateful for my life, family, friends and work, and I hope that 2017 will be better for everyone.

Happy Holidays and best wishes for a healthy, joyful 2017 to all of you!

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