by Eunhye Grace Choi
Everyone has a turning point in life.
I studied music composition and theory during my undergraduate studies in South Korea and was looking for a new life experience after graduation. I always wanted to travel overseas and learn new languages so, after navigating various possibilities, I decided to come to the United States and become a student in the English as a Second Language (ESL) program at the University of Memphis. The program encouraged students to have a native English speaker as conversation partner and I was paired with a lovely lady named Andrea whom I shared an interest in classical music.
One night, we went out for a free concert that the university’s music department presented. The program for the night was a part of the Beethoven’s Sonatas for Piano and Violin cycle. Ludwig von Beethoven wrote ten sonatas for piano and violin. What captured my attention was that Beethoven named the piano first in the violin sonatas’ titles.
The program that evening consisted of three of his sonatas played by a wonderful pianist, Victor Asuncion, the university’s piano faculty, and violinist Susanna Perry Gilmore, a former concertmaster of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. It was an absolutely beautiful concert, and I was particularly taken with the idea of true “collaboration.” Having been trained mostly as a composer and solo pianist until then, I could not explain the joy I felt seeing so closely the conversation between two instruments and two souls. The genre of chamber music really came into my life so genuinely for the first time.
Afterwards, I went backstage to tell the performers how much I enjoyed the concert, and I could not sleep that night. The next day, I started searching for graduate schools around the country that offered a collaborative piano program. Until then, I had no idea this field offered a degree, but I quickly discovered two renowned graduate programs in collaborative piano and chamber music.
Ever since that moment, I have never stopped playing chamber music. In fact, it became all of my musical life. Instrumentation or circumstances mattered little, as I loved the intimate musical connection with all my collaborators. This was true whether I was playing chamber music with world- renowned soloists or hundreds of students as an accompanist and coach.
At this very moment as I am writing, I am listening to the classical radio station and am eagerly waiting until the end of this piece, so I can write down the composer’s name and the work’s title. It will immediately go into my “hope-to-learn list,” and I have no shortage of potential collaborators to play with!
To listen to one of my favorite pieces, Beethoven’s Sonata No. 10, click here.
To hear Glenn Gould and Yehudi Menuhin discuss Beethoven’s Sonata No. 10, click here.
To view the other two blogs in this series where Amici musicians reflect on treasured moments, click below.
Treasured Chamber Music Experiences, Part I: Summer 1986, by Jessica Lambert, click here.
Treasured Chamber Music Experiences, Part II: Memories of Making music with a Holocaust Survivor in Bishop, Calif., by Sharon Schuman, click here.