So Jung Kwak is a highly versatile pianist with brilliant virtuosity and penetrating intellectual insight. As a professional soloist, she has performed throughout the United States and Asia.
She completed her Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano Performance and Literature with a minor in Music Theory from University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign under the mentorship of internationally renowned pianist and music director of Sinfonia Da Camera, Ian Hobson. Her doctoral thesis was titled “Compositional and Performing Strategies in Five Works for Piano Solo by Carl Vine.” Beginning her doctoral study, she was awarded full scholarship for her outstanding artistic performance and academic accomplishments by the School of Music, University of Illinois.
One of her remarkable achievements was to perform Carl Vine’s major piano compositions, including Piano Sonata No. 2, The Anne Landa Preludes, and Five Bagatelles. While working on those extremely virtuosic pieces, she was also invited to perform them during a master class of the Composers’ Forum at University of Illinois. In addition, she won First Prize at the American Protégé International Competition of Romantic Music and Second Prize at the International Music Competition Vienna Grand Prize Virtuoso. She had her Carnegie Hall debut in March, 2017.
Recently, she earned honorable mention in the 2017 Christine Bane Kefferstan Classical Competition. In addition, she has been accepted as a recipient of a full-tuition waiver to attend the National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy, July 26-29, 2017, in Lombard, IL. Her research proposal has been selected to be presented at the 2017 NCKP.
She showed considerable musical talent at an early age. She won in a variety of major competitions including Korea Christian University Competition, Pusan Duo Association Competition, Pusan Music Association Competition, and Pusan Music Education Association Competition.
In 2005, she made her debut in Talented Young Artist Recital sponsored by Music Chunchu Publisher at Great Hall in Geumjeong Cultural Center, Pusan, South Korea, which was given to only one pianist from each university who graduated with top honors in piano performance. She has been invited to numerous music festivals, including The Third San Juan International Piano Festival in Puerto Rico, Piano Texas, International Keyboard Institute & Festival, Piano Summer at SUNY - New Paltz, and Summer Piano Festival at Boston Conservatory, where she learned and performed a wide range of piano solo, chamber, and concerto repertoire. She has also taken master classes with internationally renowned artists such as Vladimir Feltsman, José Feghali, HaeSun Paik, Oxana Yablonskaya, Dongil Han, Chung-Mo Kang, Jung-Ja Kim, Arkadi Zenziper, Su-Jung Shin, Constantin Inoescu-vove, Kayo Ashahina, William Heiles, Timothy Ehlen, and Matthew McCright.
As a substantially experienced collaborative pianist, she has performed in a wide variety of vocal recitals and chamber music concerts. She was invited to join Illinois Summer Youth Music as a collaborative pianist, and has featured collaborations with professors John Dee and Timothy McGovern on the ISYM Faculty Recital. During her years in the University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign, she has performed major orchestral repertoires, including Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, Verdi’s Requiem and J.S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion, under renowned conductors including Fred Stoltzfus and Kristina Boerger. She has also performed as a demanded collaborative pianist in both instrumental and voice studios including cellist Dmitry Kouzov and flutist Jonathan Keeble, mezzo-soprano Sylvia Stone, and tenor Jerold Siena. In recognition of these accomplishments, she was named the recipient of the prestigious Nancy Kennedy Wustman Memorial Award in Vocal Coaching at University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign in 2013.
As an enthusiastic educator and scholar, she is actively involved in Music Teachers National Association. She presented on “The Conflict between Classical Form and Romantic Rhetoric in the Finale of Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58” at The Fifth MTNA Collegiate Chapters Piano Pedagogy Symposium at University of South Carolina, Columbia SC in January 2016. She had also been invited to the Illinois State Music Teachers Association Conference in November 2016, where she presented on “A Historical Overview and Activities of the UIUC MTNA Collegiate Chapter.”
She holds Bachelor of Music from Pusan National University, Pusan, South Korea, where she was awarded dean's scholarship and graduated with top honors. She holds a master’s degree and Performer Diploma in Piano Performance at Indiana University Bloomington, studying with internationally acclaimed Professor Shigeo Neriki.
During her years in University of Illinois, she held Graduate Assistant position in 2012-2014, and served as President of the UIUC MTNA Student Chapter in 2015-2016. She currently serves as a Lead Instructor and Coordinator in the Piano Laboratory Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign.