A woman in a colorful gown with red hair is holding her hands in front of her and standing opposite another woman with short, light grey hair sitting in a wooden chair.

In spring 2024, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts is hosting a special presentation of Sonic Blossom, a participatory artwork by Taiwanese-American artist Lee Mingwei. Sonic Blossom is a performance-based project that allows local, classically trained singers to offer a spontaneous gift of song to museum visitors in the UMFA galleries.

Sonic Blossom began in 2013, when the artist was caring for his mother as she recuperated from surgery. Inspired by the solace they found listening to Schubert's Lieder together, the project takes the form of "gift-giving" a lied (or song) to invite a moment of catharsis, joy, and connection.

Experience Lee Mingwei’s Sonic Blossom in the UMFA modern and contemporary galleries between April 10 and May 5 on the following days and times:

  • Tuesdays 10:30 am – 4:30 pm
  • Wednesdays 1:30 pm – 7:30 pm
  • Thursdays 10:30 am – 4:30 pm
  • Fridays 10:30 am – 4:30 pm
  • Saturdays 10:30 am – 4:30 pm
  • Sundays 10:30 am – 4:30 pm 

Sonic Blossom has toured in Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing, Boston, Taipei, New York, Sydney, Auckland, Frankfurt, Singapore, Washington DC, Paris, Jakarta, Cleveland, Berlin, Metz, Munich, and Helsinki and was selected as “The Best Classical Music of 2015” and “The Best in Art of 2015” in the New York Times for its presentation at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. For more information about Lee Mingwei, including project details and photos, visit www.leemingwei.com.

See all events related to Sonic Blossom here

Sonic Blossom is on loan from Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Irving W. and Charlotte F. Rabb Acquisition Fund for the Contemporary Art Department, Linde Purchase Fund for Contemporary Art, Museum Council Artist in Residency Fund, and the Doran Family Fund for Contemporary Artists.

About the Artist and Musicians

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Lee Mingwei
Born in Taiwan in 1964, Lee Mingwei, who currently resides in Paris, Taipei, and New York, creates participatory installations that enable strangers to engage with concepts of trust, intimacy, and self-awareness. Additionally, Lee conducts one-on-one events in which he and visitors explore these themes through daily activities like eating, sleeping, writing, and conversing. His projects often present open-ended scenarios for everyday interactions, adapting and transforming with participant involvement throughout an exhibition's duration.

Lee received his MFA from Yale University in 1997 and has since showcased his solo exhibitions internationally at venues including the Centre Pompidou, Tate Modern, Gropius Bau, Sydney Modern, Taipei Fine Art Museum, Mori Art Museum, Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, Auckland Art Gallery, Art Museum Ateneum, Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He has also been featured in Biennials in Venice, Lyon, Sharjah, Liverpool, Taipei, Sydney, Echigo-Tsumari, Whitney, and the Asia Pacific Triennials.

His mid-career survey exhibition, Lee Mingwei and His Relations: The Art of Participation, was presented at Mori Art Museum in 2014, traveled to Taipei Fine Arts Museum and Auckland Art Gallery. Lee's European survey, Lee Mingwei: Li, Gifts, and Rituals, was on view at Gropius Bau in 2020 followed by Museum Villa Stuck. In the coming years of 2023 and 2024, he plans to unveil his projects and new creations in countries including Denmark, France, South Korea, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan, and the United States.

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Dr. Mitchell Giambalvo, Pianist
Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Dr. Mitchell Giambalvo received his doctorate in piano performance from Florida State University. He then returned to complete a second master’s degree in collaborative piano before becoming an adjunct professor of piano at Troy University in Alabama. Giambalvo moved to Salt Lake City and joined the University of Utah staff in 2019. He is a freelance vocal diction coach for singers, works with a variety of instrumentalists, and continues to pursue his love of collaborative music-making in Utah. 

Giambalvo has performed as a pianist for the Utah Opera, is a substitute pianist with the Utah Symphony, and is the pianist for the Utah Flute Association – for which he recently performed with Catherine Ransom Karoly (Associate Principal Flutist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic) and Dr. Erika Boysen (Assistant Professor of Flute at the University of North Carolina Greensboro) at Westminster College. At the University of Utah, he also served as the pianist for the International Trombone Festival in 2023. Recent performances include The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs (Utah Opera), Olivier Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony (Utah Symphony), and Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (NOVA Chamber Music Series). In addition to his work in Utah, he serves as summer piano faculty at Montana’s Red Lodge Music Festival. 

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Beibei Guan, Soprano
Praised for her “intense focus, riveting delivery, beautiful singing” by the New York Times, soprano Beibei Guan has won the Marcello Giordani Foundation 5th International Vocal Competition, Orpheus National Vocal Competition, New York Lyric Opera Theatre National Vocal competition, and Opera Connecticut American Opera Idol Competition. Guan has performed the role of Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly; Liù in Turandot; Pamina in Die Zauberflöte; Mimì in La Bohème; Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi; Countess in Le nozze di Figaro; and Nancy in Albert Herring.

Guan premiered Sonic Blossom by the renowned artist, Lee Mingwei, at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston in 2014. Later she presented Sonic Blossom at the Center George Pompidou, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and Metropolitan Museum of Arts, NYC, which received the award of "The Best Classical Event of 2015" by the New York Times.  She also joined the project Invitation for Dawn by Mingwei Lee online with Gropius Bau in 2020. 

Beibei Guan is honored to be part of Sonic Blossom at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.

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John Knight Allen, Baritone
A product of musical parents, John Knight Allen began his musical journey with the piano in Los Angeles at age 4. He continued his studies with the violin at Brigham Young University for his undergraduate career, and recently completed a Master’s degree in vocal performance with Robert Breault from the University of Utah, where he is now working on a DMA in voice and choral conducting with Kirstin Chavez and Barlow Bradford, respectively. Summer studies include work at the Chautauqua Institution in New York, the Aspen Music School, and abroad in Italy.

John performs internationally both as a violinist and singer, and enjoys interpreting the standard repertoire as well as championing new works. Recent operatic roles include Gianni Schicchi, Scarpia, Sweeney Todd, Don Alfonso, Enrico, Germont, and Rigoletto. 

John currently serves as baritone for the Graduate Vocal Quartet at the University of Utah and Music Director for the South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society. He also regularly plays violin with the Bozeman Symphony and Ballet West. In addition to performance, John is passionate about teaching music, international relations, yoga, and skiing Utah snow.

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Sheldon Baxter, Baritone
Canadian baritone Sheldon Baxter is a Master of Music graduate from the University of British Columbia opera program. He has studied in the vocal studios of Norman Bailey, Kristine Ciesinski, and Peter Barcza. During his professional career, he has embodied numerous roles such as Eugene Onegin (Eugene Onegin), Count Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), Revírník (Příhody lišky Bystroušky), Guglielmo (Così fan tutte) and Le Dancaïre (Carmen). 

Sheldon has performed across Germany, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Canada, and the USA with organizations such as Semperoper Dresden, Landestheater Niederbayern Passau, Wexford Festival Opera, J.K. Tyl Theater Pilsen, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Szene12 Dresden, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, Hale Center Theatre Orem and Immling Festspiele.

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Dillan Burnett, Leggero Tenor (understudy)
A double major in both Vocal Performance and International Studies and minoring in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies, Dillan Burnett is a Leggero tenor with an impeccable school-life balance and an even more impeccable voice. His perfect blend of vocal lightness and control has brought him to sing with many renowned conductors and composers. Burnett is a member of the University of Utah Chamber Choir under Dr. Barlow Bradford, and has formerly worked with Marshall McDonald at the University’s LDS Institute Singers. Currently, Dillan studies under the direction of Dr. Lynn Maxfield, who is the associate director of the National Center for Voice and Speech, giving Burnett a fresh, pedagogical perspective to his technique. This Spring, Dillan will perform his first solo recital, bringing his voice to the works of composers such as Schumann, Ravel, and Quilter.

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Mara Davis, Mezzo-Soprano
Mara Davis is a native of Henderson, Nevada. She is a senior in the Vocal Performance BM at the University of Utah studying under Dr. Seth Keeton, and she is so excited to see what’s in store after graduation. Recently, she has sung in U Opera productions as Zita in Gianni Schicchi, La Zelatrice in Suor Angelica, The Usher in Trial by Jury, Mrs. Cratchit in A Christmas Carol, and Dorabella in Così fan tutte. She will be singing the role of The Cheshire Cat in U Operas’s Alice: An Operatic Wonderland this Spring. A lover of new music, she sang in the world premiere of Robert Stephenson’s 5 Aesop Songs and frequently sings fellow students’ compositions. She is currently the President of the University of Utah SNATS Chapter and a member of the Chamber Choir. When she’s not singing, Mara loves trivia, photography, baking, and doing jigsaw puzzles.

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Allie Marsh, Soprano (understudy)
Allie Marsh is thrilled to be a part of this incredible exhibit! Allie is pursuing her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance at the University of Utah and is a student of Dr. Seth Keeton. She was last seen performing the role of Dido in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas at the U of U and is performing the role of Sister in the university’s spring production of Alice: An Operatic Wonderland, as well as serving as an Assistant Director. Allie is also a member of the University of Utah Chamber Choir, which has taught her the value of connection and community that music provides. After graduation Allie is looking to pursue a career in Arts Administration where she can facilitate the sharing of beautiful stories, ideas, and support this wonderful community.

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McKenzie Mulberry, Coloratura Soprano
McKenzie Mulberry is a coloratura soprano from Houston, Texas. She attributes her musical skills to her parents who put her through piano and voice lessons from a young age and encouraged her to audition for every vocal competition and performance possible. Their attendance at each of her early performances are what gives her the confidence to continue studying and performing today. She will be graduating from Brigham Young University in April 2024 with a Bachelor’s in classical vocal performance. At BYU, she’s performed in productions and groups such as Fiddler on the Roof, BYU Concert Choir, BYU Singers, Opera Scenes, and various operas. In addition to music, McKenzie loves hiking, road trips, pickleball, card games, and her sweet husband, Will Mulberry. Performing Sonic Blossom is a dream for McKenzie. She can’t wait to share music and art with you!

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Sam Plumb, Tenor
Sam Plumb has been storytelling via song his whole life. A child of military veterans, Sam was raised in several American states, settling in Utah as an adult. After spending his grade school years in choirs and community theatre productions, he decided to dedicate his life to the art of singing. Following initial studies at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, He received his B.M. in Vocal Performance, Summa Cum Laude, from Utah Valley University. He is currently working towards completion of a M.M. in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy at the University of Utah. As a Teaching Assistant, he performs as part of the University Graduate Vocal Quartet and has a wonderful time teaching private lessons to undergraduate students. It is his great privilege to share his voice with the art-lovers of Salt Lake.

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Mitchell Sturges, Tenor
Hailed with “honest” and “transparently clean” singing, tenor Mitchell Sturges, a Salt Lake City native, recently returned to Utah after living in Cincinnati, OH. Prior to living in the Midwest, he was in his fourth year as a Teaching Artist for Arizona Opera in elementary schools throughout Arizona. He lived in Vienna, Austria for 3 years, making his international début singing the role of Don Basilio in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro. Past operatic performances include collaborations with Cincinnati Opera, Oper in der Krypta in Vienna, Arizona Opera, Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Paradigm Chamber Orchestra, and Salt Lake Symphony, in productions of La bohème, Gianni Schicchi, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Lucia di Lammermoor, The Consul, Amahl and the Night Visitors, and West Side Story. Rapidly being recognized as an innovative recitalist, Mitchell is known for his commitment to exploring and performing a vast array of song repertoire, with a special passion for 20th & 21st century American song. Mr. Sturges has been presented in recital at such esteemed venues as St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London, England, Peterskirche in Vienna, Austria, Los Angeles City College, and the Assembly Hall on Temple Square in Salt Lake, giving “inspired performances” and leaving audiences “entertained and edified.”

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Carolyn Talboys-Klassen, Soprano
Carolyn Talboys-Klassen has been heard throughout Utah including solo appearances with the Utah Symphony, OPUS Chamber Orchestra, and Utah Valley Choral Society. She has presented recitals and been feature soloist with many local groups - NOVA, the Chamber Music Society of Salt Lake, and the Madeline Festival. She also appeared as Sophie in Master Class for Salt Lake Acting Company. 

Carolyn has a long affiliation with Utah Symphony | Utah Opera. Among her mainstage roles were Sister Dolcina in Suor Angelica, and Mary in The Ballad of Baby Doe. She appears frequently in mainstage productions in the Utah Opera Chorus and was soloist in the company’s Opera-in-the-Schools Program for eight years. Carolyn had the distinction of being chosen to participate in Utah Opera’s first Young Artist Program.

Carolyn received her Master of Music from the University of Utah and has been on campus for many years working at U Health.

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Natalia Turchin, Soprano
Originally from the Republic of Moldova, soprano Natalia Turchin has already performed in multiple countries around the world including the Republic of Moldova, Romania, Belarus, Poland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Austria, Russian Federation, Italy, and the United States of America. 

Natalia’s professional journey has already passed through one of the most prestigious music conservatories in Russia – The Rimsky-Korsakov St. Petersburg Conservatory. In addition to the degree in Choral Conducting she received there, Natalia Turchin also used the unique opportunity afforded her at the Conservatory to begin her concentrated training in classical vocal technique. After her studies in Russia, Natalia moved to Romania to continue her studies as an opera singer in the University of Music, Bucharest under the guidance of world-known Romanian soprano Iulia Isaev. 

Currently, Natalia is a Doctor of Musical Arts Candidate in Vocal Performance at the University of Utah where she studies with Dr. Robert Breault. Before arriving at the University of Utah, Natalia earned a Master of Music Degree in Vocal Performance at Southeastern Louisiana University. There, she was a student of Dr. Jennifer Mouledous.

Image Credit: Sonic Blossom, 2013 | 2015. Performance view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA. Photo Courtesy of Lee Studio, Photo by Anita Kan
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