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Last February, one Sookmyungian debuted as a rookie cellist at the Chosunilbo Concert, which is an event that introduces new talented musicians. She is receiving much attention as a budding new artist because of this stage performance. She had a great debut that highlighted the skills she spent years honing. Who is this budding young talent? It’s cellist Chung Jisu, a graduate from the Department of Instruments 2016. The Sookmyung Times met her in order to listen to her story.
How do you feel after debuting at the Chosunilbo Concert, which is actually your first official appearance as a cellist?
The Chosunilbo Concert is a stage for top university graduates from each university, so it was more like a festival rather than a competition. Indeed, I was full of anxiety as it was my first official appearance, but I didn’t join just for the award and didn’t expect to win. Interestingly, I learnt that I had won just the day before it was reported in the Chosunilbo newspaper. Though it was suddenly notified, I was extremely happy to have won the award. Also, it was more meaningful than any other awards because it was my first award as a true artist, not as a student.
Please tell us a bit about the process up to the concert and your choice of song during the concert.
I chose to play Cello Sonata, written by modern music composer, Gyorgy Ligeti. Speaking honestly, I’d never heard it before being introduced to it by Professor Chae Huicheol. Music pieces for the cello are far less than for other instruments. Mostly, cellists play pieces composed by famous musicians such as Bach and Beethoven, so the piece by Ligeti was something that sparked by spirit to challenge it. Since it is not well known, I had nothing to which I could refer to when practicing the piece, so I just concentrated solely on the sound I produced.
When did you start playing? And, why did you choose the cello?
Although most musicians show talent from a very young age, I sadly did not. My first exposure to music was at a piano academy when I was 5 years old. However, my mom wanted me to learn something unique than the piano. I looked at various instruments, but I chose the cello because it was different from other instruments. It had a very low sound, so I felt comfortable with it, even when I performed poorly. There were many days when I wanted to throw in the towel. However, I believed that with hard work, I could reap the rewards, so I decided to major in cello at university.
What do you focus on when you play?
Whenever I play, I concentrate on the audiences, whether they understand my musical expression. I feel I fail if the audience is unable to understand the emotions I try to express. Therefore, I always try to ensure the audience is able to sympathize with my performance. I usually practise expressing methods by listening and watching the performance of others at concerts or on CD. Sometimes, I even read books or references material regarding the historical background, environment, and era of composers.
Have you ever experienced a slump? If so, how did you overcome it?
I personally can’t recall any huge deep slump, but my mom says she knows all my slumps, even the smallest ones because she always keep a close eye on me. According to her, I usually suffer greatly before a big event. For example, she claims I fell into a slump right before the university entrance exam and the graduation performance. At the times, I try my best to concentrate during practice and avoid any distractions like going out with friends. I know others may rest and do not practise, but I can’t do that. I get antsy. Also, I sometimes cry in order to release my anxiety. These ways help me calm down.
What are your goals and plans for future?
I would like to study a little more, and I’d also like to do some of that studying abroad. After this, I’d like to perform at more diverse venues. Eventually, I would like to teach because I had great experiences learning from some very talented teachers. Professor Chae Huicheol, my academic advisor at Sookmyung Women’s University, is one of those teachers. He is not only a great musician, but also a very passionate teacher. I dream of giving to others what I received from those teachers. Furthermore, I hope I can continue to play cello well into my old age.
Would you please give some advice for Sookmyung students majoring in music?
Plenty of people and students who major in music at university fear they have narrowed their job opportunities, but I think it’s nonsensical. It’s an excuse to justify their indolence. Everything in life is rooted with difficulties. Nothing is easy. You can do anything you put your mind to and stick with it passionately. For example, I saw many students avoid practicing their instruments, except during exam weeks in order to receive a grade. To be honest, these students are wasting their time and effort. To be a performer, music must be your life and you must use it to express your emotions well.
•Graduate of Yewon School and Seoul Arts High School
•Graduate from the Department of Instruments, 2016
•Received Rookie of the Year from the 79th Chosunilbo Concert
•Ranked Top Cellist by the Seoul Metropolitan Youth Orchestra