The Hartford Symphony Orchestra's music director Carolyn Kuan became a U.S. citizen on Saturday.
Kuan came to the U.S. from her native Taiwan to study music when she was 14. She says her path to citizenship has been a long and bumpy ride. When she was applying for her green card, Kuan said immigration officials were not convinced of her qualifications.
“After I submitted my application, I got a letter, what's called an RFE, which stands for I think "request for evidence". That's usually the first sign that you may not have everything that it takes,” said Kuan.
She said she was convinced she would have to return to Taiwan for good. Kuan reached out to some of her mentors in the hopes that they would write letters to immigration officials vouching for her musical talent. Kuan eventually got that green card with help from none other than cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
The green card granted her permanent status in the U.S., but now she's looking forward to becoming a full-fledged citizen.
“To be able to finally vote will mean a lot, and being able to advocate for the things I care about will be very meaningful,” Kuan said.
Kuan and 10 other Connecticut residents became U.S. citizens on Saturday, but it won’t happen in a stuffy courthouse. The HSO has arranged for the ceremony to take place on the stage at The Bushnell's Belding Theater, about 90 minutes before Kuan and the HSO perform Beethoven's Eroica Symphony.
“The Eroica Symphony is the piece that made me fall in love with classical music” Kuan said. “There is this heartbreaking and moving part at the end of the symphony. It’s very hymn-like. It's one of those moments that makes you feel like there's good in humanity.”
The concert opens with “The Star Spangled Banner.” It will be the first time she has conducted the national anthem as a U.S. citizen, and she’s not sure how she will hold up. Kuan knows it will be an emotional night. She said it was important to her to have the Hartford community witness her take the oath of citizenship.
“Hartford has very much become part of my family, and to be able to share this moment with my family is very special,” Kuan said.