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Arts & Culture

DSO Violinist Giyeon Yoon is so emotional. And audiences wouldn't have it any other way

Violinist Giyeon Yoon
Jino Park
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Giyeon Yoon performs works by Beethoven, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and Moszkowski at a chamber music recital concert on Saturday.

We caught up with her this week to chat about emotional music, Karaoke, and kids today.

Giyeon Yoon takes pride in her ability to move the hearts of her audience when she plays her violin.

Her passion for the instrument started at just six years old in her homeland of South Korea. Since then, she’s had a versatile musical career as a soloist, recitalist, chamber musician, teaching artist and orchestra musician throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia.

Yoon’s current gig is with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra as a first violin member. We caught up with her this week ahead of her first Dallas chamber music recital to chat about emotional music, Karaoke, and kids today.

What is one thing you wish the average person knew about playing the violin?

I hope more people get to know how charming an instrument the violin is. When played with fancy techniques, it brings out colorful emotions, and when it is played with delicate emotions, then it touches your soul. The violin truly translates feelings. When I play the violin, I tend to think that it is representing my ‘voice’ and I try to use it to communicate my feelings.

Playing the violin requires a great deal of dedication, so one can assume you love the violin. Has there ever been a time when you hated it?

Honestly, since I was six years old, ‘quitting violin’ has never crossed my mind. It, however, never felt easy, as it was challenging as a young student to express what I had hoped for. I think that same reason made me persistent, and I gradually built passion. I am grateful that I have been able to live a life of a musician and being able to continue the journey as one.

How famous would you like to be?

Now that I think of it, the driver in me is not ‘fame’ so I don’t know if I have an answer. But my dream has been to become an influencer among many musicians, who will continue to deliver great music. If my music can console a soul, it would be my great honor. I am continuously trying to bring out music that touches people’s hearts.

You've been performing since you were 6 years old, and you currently teach in Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Young Strings program.  How are young violinists today different than when you were a child?

First of all, the DSO’s Young String Program is a great program that provides good opportunities for young students. Through numerous exposures to jury and competitions, they can build experience and confidence naturally. My impression working with students is that they tend to have different opinions and expectations on the level of commitment in music. For someone like me, who decided to leave my hometown for an advanced education at a young age, this leads to the question ‘what if they are further encouraged to dream bigger?’ While supporting their choices, my goal is to motivate the students to test themselves on how far they can go to become serious musicians.

If you could go back and time and talk to your favorite classical composer, what would you like to ask him (or her)?

My favorite classical composer is Ludwig van Beethoven. His music has so much feeling embedded and it triggers a new emotion in me each time I play. Your love grows deeper the more you listen to it – this is the reason why I love his music. He is regarded as an important figure in music history, representing classical but also the one who opened the door to romanticism. His later music demonstrated new attempts in complex expressions, which influenced many newer generations. Loss of hearing did not discourage his desire for composition, and some scholars believe that even his loss may have influenced his music.

If I could go back and had a chance to ask him a question, I would ask what mental picture he had when he was writing his music, thinking the image he had in his head would have been certainly different from other people in his time.

You're originally from South Korea, what things did you have to leave behind in your homeland in order to follow your dream?

Certainly it is hard to be away from my family. I miss them so much. I am forever grateful that they have been supporting me all this time, and they respect my opinion and decision for my career.

If your violin could talk, what would it say to you?

I often remind myself before starting a concert, ‘I can do this! I believe in you.’ I think my violin would tell me something similar - ‘We can do this together! Let’s believe in ourselves.’

What song would you pick if you were in a Karaoke contest?

My favorite song in a Karaoke is ‘If’ by Tae Yeon. In fact, I like to sing various genres of music, but I would pick that song if I were in a Karaoke contest.

What's your guilty pleasure?

Like most people, I am weak when it comes to sweet desserts. Well, it certainly does make all of us feel good and happier, right?

Giyeon Yoon will be performing an Evening of Chamber Music Saturday at Collora Piano in Dallas. She’ll be joined by special guests, DSO Concertmaster Alexander Kerr and pianist Benjamin Loeb.

In Good Question, we're getting to know movers and shakers in the arts a little bit better with a few quirky and thought-provoking questions. Who should we talk to next? E-mail me at tpowell@kera.org.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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