PIANIST JOON YOON performs a wide range of repertoire from Bach to Brahms to Carter.

PIANIST JOON YOON performs a wide range of repertoire from Bach to Brahms to Carter.

Every year Bowdoin International Music Festival brings together over 325 classical musicians, 250 of which are students, for six weeks of intensive chamber music study. These individuals have spent years perfecting their craft and working towards a future in music. Their skills are inspiring, their determination is unyielding, and the music they create is truly transporting. In this interview, we talk with 2015 Festival Fellow and pianist, Joon Yoon.

A native of Seoul, Korea, Yoon made his solo recital debut at the age of 12 in South Korea and his concerto debut at the age of 13 in the U.S. He is an avid solo and chamber musician, and performs a wide range of repertoire from Bach to Brahms to Carter.

Bowdoin International Music Festival: When did you know you wanted to play piano professionally?

Joon Yoon: Piano has been a major part of my life since I was 9. I went to an arts middle school in Korea, where I was surrounded by friends who were already determined to become professional musicians, painters or dancers. I went through the biggest change at 13, when I moved to the United States with my family. I went to public school, which was a huge adjustment for me. After being exposed to a non-musical life, I was able to truly figure out that my passion is playing piano and making music.

BIMF: What is the best advice you’ve received from an instructor?

JY: I learned musical integrity and unity from Yong Hi Moon; I learned to have sensitive and keen ears from Robert McDonald; I learned to become an independent musician from Mevin Chen; I learned listening to the microscopic elements and developing personal character in music from Hung- Kuan Chen. There is one word that echoes in my mind whenever I am distracted used by Ms. Moon: “Focus!”

BIMF: What is one challenge you learned to overcome while at the Festival?

JY: I learned to push myself as much as I can, in both chamber and solo performances. Balancing my time with the heavy load of repertoire was one of the challenges. The other challenge was quickly putting together a complete chamber work with the faculty and Fellows. As a student, we’re usually given a longer period of time to learn a complete chamber work. However, in many concerts, there were times when we were given very little time for rehearsals. It was both great and challenging. Now I feel more comfortable performing after short sessions of rehearsals.

BIMF: How do you use constructive criticism?

JY: Music is very subjective. I learn from others and try to teach myself every day. I believe that the learning ultimately comes from oneself. There are times when I don’t agree with advice, teaching and criticism, but I always try to learn from them. Criticism can hurt, but it usually helps.

BIMF: What are your passions outside of classical music?

JY: I enjoy watching films and cooking. When I was younger I found Tim Burton’s films intriguing. I find Stanley Kubrick and Wes Anderson’s films very interesting. Zombie and Marvel movies are my guilty pleasures. Cooking is a more recent interest. I’m not great at it, but it’s something I want to keep working on; especially Italian cuisine.

BIMF: Why do you feel passionately about playing chamber music?

JY: I believe playing chamber music brings out the best in me. Sharing musical ideas and beliefs with others is one of the most exciting things to me as a musician.

BIMF: If you could have a dinner party with three people, either living or dead, who would they be?

JY: Franz Schubert, Jack Nicholson and Yuna Kim.

BIMF: If you were stranded on a desert island and could only take three pieces of music with you, what would they be?

JY: Mozart Symphony No. 41 “Jupiter,” Beethoven Bagatelles Op. 126, and Brahms Klavierstücke Op. 118.

BIMF: What advice would you offer to an aspiring pianist?

JY: It’s very difficult and demanding to be a pianist, and often lonely, even though I love the music I play. To aspiring pianists, I would like to quote part of Baudelaire’s poem, “Be Drunk” — “You have to be always drunk. That’s all there is to it — it’s the only way. … Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish.” And in our case, we must always be drunk on music.


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