In the video for their latest single, Arianna Warsaw-Fan ’04 and Meta Weiss ’05 are chased by security guards after interrupting a Marilyn Monroe performance. The single is not the latest pop hit, but a rendition of the classical standard “Stars and Stripes Forever,” by John Phillip Sousa.
Producing music videos is just one of the ways Warsaw-Fan and Weiss, who met at an Andover open house in 2001, are working to modernize classical music. Performing as duoW, Warsaw-Fan and Weiss have reached new audiences with their music by performing in concerts, producing viral music videos and selling thousands of copies of recorded albums.
“Classical music is everything that words can and cannot express. It encompasses a range of styles and has the ability to speak to people of all ages and backgrounds — it is its own beautiful, universal language,” said Weiss. “The music that we love is vibrant, alive and relevant to everyone today. The biggest goal of duoW is to humanize our art and really connect with our audiences.”
Violinist Warsaw-Fan and cellist Weiss both began their musical training in pre-school at the ages of two and four, respectively. At an early age, they mastered difficult music theory concepts and developed an appreciation for the works of Ludwig van Beethoven, George Frideric Handel and other composers.
“Music played an immense role in our lives growing up, and it is important to us that other kids should have the same opportunities of learning about this amazing art form. We are always so overjoyed to see children in the audience when we perform and love reaching the new generation of people who will appreciate classical music,” Weiss said.
The two women’s musical experiences at Andover gave them the skills to easily communicate with each other about their art and comfortably perform in front of large audiences.
“The Music Department at Andover really shaped the formative years of my music career. I met some of the most inspiring teachers I’ve ever had and was able to learn about so many aspects of classical music,” said Weiss.
After graduating from Andover, both women chose to continue to follow their passion for music by attending the Juilliard School, where they received their Master of Music degrees.
Throughout their childhoods and musical career, Weiss and Warsaw-Fan found that classical music is often seen as outdated and unpopular compared to modern popular music. By reaching their audience through modern methods such as social media, they hope to bridge the gap between the two genres and address the stigma surrounding classical music.
“We try to communicate to people that this music is just as relevant to us in today’s world as it was when it was written and just as relevant as any other music we listen to now. [Warsaw-Fan] and I want to expand the audiences, especially younger audiences, for classical music to include people who also listen to pop music,” said Weiss.
Weiss and Warsaw-Fan have modernized classical music by selling digital copies of their performances, creating an interactive website with audio clips and creating a series of viral music videos. As duoW, they’ve released a full album of their renditions of famous classical pieces from many different time periods. The album has sold thousands of copies online and in stores.
“All of the pieces on the album are different but all display the capabilities of the composers in one way or another. Each piece we chose captures the composer’s depiction of their time and the context in which they were written, like a time capsule,” said Weiss.
This past year, duoW has toured across the West Coast, continuing to broaden their audiences by performing concerts almost every day. According to Weiss, rather than only playing their pieces to entertain their audiences, duoW tries to have conversations and directly communicate with listeners. “We always make our [performances] very conversational, and we talk a lot about what the music means to us and why we like it,” said Weiss. “We got to talk to and meet so many wonderful people and really connect with the audiences all over [California] of all different ages.”
Warsaw-Fan and Weiss plan to continue making videos, performing and touring across the country and hope to continue to reach an even broader audience with their music.
“We both love classical music, and we feel that there are probably tons of people out there who would also love it if they only knew more about it,” said Warsaw-Fan. “There are currently no classical artists who compare to artists from the pop music industry in terms of international relevance. We want to change that and get rid of the outdated stigma of classical music.”