Dr Yoonie Han: My lifelong journey with the piano
29 Jul 2019
When we think of classical pianists, the image that often comes to mind is of a smartly dressed figure sat in front of a grand piano, with their fingers ready to grace the ivory keys. However, Dr Yoonie Han, Assistant Professor of the Department of Music, tells us that modern pianists are no longer just on-stage performers, as they must also play different roles in order to have a successful career in classical music.
Yoonie was born and raised in South Korea. As her parents are classical music lovers, Yoonie started listening to classical music when she was three years old. "When I was young, the piano was my toy and I always dreamed of performing on-stage with a beautiful dress, just like a princess!" she says.
Yoonie made her solo debut with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra at age 13. She then left for America to study at world-renowned music schools including Juilliard School's Pre-College, the Curtis Institute of Music, the Juilliard School and then Stony Brook University, where she received a bachelor's degree, master’s degree and doctorate respectively. After graduating, she travelled all around the globe, giving fabulous performances and receiving numerous awards. This included winning Juilliard’s Gina Bachauer Piano Competition, the World Piano Competition and the Washington International Piano Competition. She has also played with well-known orchestras, making her childhood dream come true at different celebrated venues all over the world.
"For me, being a pianist is not a job, it is part of my life," she says. Outside of performing, Yoonie spends a lot of time promoting her own brand. By working as a performer, marketer, public relations practitioner and event organiser, it not only enables her to further her career but also allows the public to learn more about classical music.
"In the past, musicians used to focus on performance and practice alone. However, that is no longer the case. We have to manage and promote ourselves. From scheduling a show and meeting organisers, to speaking with potential sponsors, or even managing my own website and social media channels, I have to do it all myself,” says Yoonie. “In recent years, I have been quite impressed by Korean pop culture. K-Pop always offers me a valuable marketing lesson, including the importance of image, packaging, and e-marketing."
In addition to promoting classical music on e-platforms, Yoonie also reminds her students of the importance of networking, which has been quite valuable to her career. She always keeps in touch with musicians all over the world and regularly seeks opportunities to collaborate. "I have expanded from chamber solo concerts to working in a trio with two of my former classmates from the Juilliard School. We have recorded albums and organised concert tours. This valuable experience has definitely broadened my horizons and brought me new experiences and insight to my career."
Before joining HKBU in September last year, Yoonie worked as an Assistant Professor of Piano and Chamber Music, as well as an Artistic Events Coordinator, at Bilkent University, Turkey. While there, she nurtured young talents and helped to pass classical music onto the next generation.
"We should not only focus on practice when learning music, as other aspects such as interacting and communicating with others are also important. I always encourage my students to travel and meet other musicians, as it’s an extremely helpful way to find inspiration and improve your skills," she says.
Furthermore, Yoonie makes use of her network to provide students with exchange opportunities and the chance to learn from experts, as such encounters can help students bridge the gap to the professional world and meet other musicians. These opportunities also equip students with vital skills and experience as they embark on their own musical journeys.