INTERVIEW WITH HYEYOUNG SONG
New York Piano Group | December 2016
First Prize winner of the Janice K. Hodges Piano Competition, Hyeyoung Song is an active performer who has performed extensively throughout the United States and Korea, noted for her warm and beautiful tone, tireless energy and great musical temperament.
She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Ewha Woman’s University where she graduated with highest honors in piano performance, an Artist Diploma from Texas Christian University, and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in piano performance from the University of Texas at Austin.
Her teachers include Gregory Allen, Jose Mendez, Harold Martina, Tamas Ungar, and Mijai Youn. She has also taken master classes with Anne Schein, Aldo Parisot, Miyoko Lotto, Philippe Bianconi, Benedetto Lupo, Krassimira Jordan, Jose Feghali, Robert Blocker and Richard Cass.
Song lives in Coppell Texas, with her husband and two children. Since 2007, She has been serving as Artist in Residence at Weatherford College, Texas.
"Because music is so great and divine, I believe that it was a gift to mankind to perform and enjoy."
Can you tell us about your upcoming program at Carnegie Hall?
I'm happy to have the chance to perform pieces that I have always enjoyed. My recital program includes a sacred piano transcription by Bach, "Appassionata" sonata by Beethoven (a composer I feel close to like a soulmate), two Debussy preludes and the ‘Isle of Joy’ (all three pieces related to ‘water’) and modern pieces by American composers such as Gershwin, Cowell, Rzewski…From the profound sacred music of Bach to the secular music of Rzewski who successfully translated through piano the labor movement and social issues of his time. These are not only pieces I love, but they mean a lot to me, as they reflect my life and the world of music.
Can you tell us about your concert activities this year?
My 2016 world tour included a tour of Europe this past Summer, playing in Paris, in Spain, etc., a tour of Korea this past Fall. This Carnegie Hall concert is a finale that will complete my tour.
You currently live in Texas. How do you like Texas and what brought you to Texas?
Coming to Texas was like destiny. I was selected as a scholarship student by a professor from Texas who was doing a tour of Asia while I was in graduate school. My teacher whom I respect, recommended Texas and gave me guidance, because she knew about the Van Cliburn competition and the high level of music education in Texas. In addition to the Van Cliburn competition, I was attracted to the fine concert series in Texas, a relaxed cultural environment and the public's appreciation towards music. That's why I came to Texas, so I could immerse myself in piano in such an environment.
I understand that you are also a mother to young children. Is it difficult to find time to practice while raising two children?
Yes, very difficult. Raising children, ages 6 and 3 and travelling with them is one of life’s greatest adventures. I have been upset at times because of the restriction on how much I can practice. I have to look after the children who interrupt me during my practice. Getting myself at the piano to practice in the middle of the night after a long day and after putting kids to sleep, sometimes feels like a battle.
However, I feel that music and life are inseparable. A mother raising young children and a pianist are not so different. I think that giving up for your children’s needs is a process that allows one to mature musically. Similarly, a life of a performer is a process of giving . As a musician, I feel that I’m being trained on how to give up myself and to give to others. Practicing with children at the piano, practicing to the sound of children playing...I perhaps picked up a skill on how to live together with them.
Most of all, my children provide me with inspiration and creative energy, which are very special to me. I feel that such factors allow me to achieve greater musical maturity.
If it weren’t for piano, what do you think you would have become?
Well, I haven’t given it any serious thought, but I think I would have been an educator or a poet. I would have done something related to helping children or the disabled; something that would allow me to share the beauty of this world.
What inspired you to become a concert pianist? Were there any challenges that you faced as a pianist? If yes, how did you overcome those challenges?
My mother loved music and since I was young, I had a lot of interest in this unseen world and its beauty. In middle school, my music teacher played a Verdi Requiem and said: “If people would listen to this kind of music, there would be no sadness brought on by war or division.” I remember vividly that that was the moment that made me want to devote my life to music.
There were certainly many challenges, but since I can't think of anything in particular, that probably means that any hardship is overshadowed by the greatness of music and its beauty. I am thankful and feel blessed for being able to lead a life with music.
Can you name some pianists who have inspired you? Who were some of your influences in your development as an artist?
There are so many great pianists throughout history whom I admire for their unique interpretation and a distinct tone. As for pianists who are around today, I really admire Radu Lupu and Andras Schiff. They fully explored the potential of the piano and I feel that they are pianists who overcame it's deficiencies.
Do you have any advice to give to those who wish to become a professional pianist?
Because music is so great and divine, I believe that it was a gift to mankind to perform and enjoy. As much as being privileged and blessed to be a musician, I believe that cherishing one’s musical talent and sharing it, is a calling and a responsibility of a musician. If one realizes how much he or she is blessed, one should be able to follow this path with joy, and overcome any handicap or despair.
What does music mean to you? What significance does classical music have in today’s world?
When I was young, music was an absolute necessity to me. I believed that music was superior to all disciplines including science and art; that it ends war, purifies one's soul and brings world peace. Even though we don't live in a world where a young girl's fantasy magically turns into reality, I continue to believe in the greatness and the power of music. Good music allows us to get deeply in touch with our natural selves. What can be a happier moment for a performer than communicating and being in contact with the audience? To me, music is love.
Hyeyoung Song performs on Wednesday, December 28, 2016 at Carnegie Hall. For tickets, click here. Learn more about Hyeyoung Song at www.hyeyoungsong.com.