It was never in Joyce Yang’s plans to stay in the United States. In an exclusive interview for the Chopin Society of Atlanta, Yang tells of her experience: “At the age of nine my mom brought me to New York for the first time. I was introduced to Yoheved Kaplinsky, who eventually became my teacher for the next fourteen years. I got an audition with her by sheer coincidence, and she said that she would teach me if I could be here. My mom, who is a molecular biologist, was doing a sabbatical, and she agreed that we would stay in New York for a year. I would take piano lessons, learn a bit of English, and then we would go back to Korea. But at the age of twelve two prominent things happened: I won a competition in Philadelphia, which got me to play with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and I played at the Juilliard benefit concert. During the dress rehearsal for that concert, I was asked to join their roster, so, twelve years later, here I am.”
Yang first gained international attention in 2005 when she won the silver medal at the 12th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. The prize came as a great surprise to the pianist — she had entered the competition merely looking for experience but left a professional artist with a very distinct voice. Yang describes this life-changing moment: “Now I had all these high expectations behind me, I was doing interviews, and I had to define my music, not only through my performance but through words. Handling all the attention and adapting both musically and emotionally to the situation was a big challenge.”
In 2006, the violinist made a triumphant return to her hometown of Seoul, South Korea. “It was unbelievable. It was like a wedding reception without a groom. Probably every single person I had ever met in my life or my parents had ever known was present at that concert. Hundreds of people came up to me and said, “I knew you when you were three” or “I saw you the day you were born.” For my family, it meant so much. For me, it was a proud moment. It felt like I was giving them this gift and showing them that this has been my journey. I felt that this way my efforts were validated. We took chances, and as a result, wonderful, spontaneous things happened. I was just floating in air.”
In the last decade, Yang has blossomed into an “astonishing artist” (Neue Zürcher Zeitung), showcasing her colorful musical personality in solo recitals and collaborations with the world’s top orchestras and chamber musicians through more than 1,000 debuts and re-engagements.
You can experience Ms. Yang as the featured artist in our November Symphony concerts, Joyce Yang Plays Prokofiev, November 8–10.
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