Han’s fingers impress ND Museum

— Classical music enthusiasts pleased with internationally known pianist

Pianist Yoonie Han poses with a piano. Photo courtesy of yooniehan.com

South Korean pianist Yoonie Han received a standing ovation on Sunday at the North Dakota Museum of Art after she performed for the Sunday Concerts in the Galleries.

The pianist said she has been traveling non-stop around the country since December and made her way from New York to Grand Forks over the weekend.

“When I first got (to Grand Forks) I was nervous because my hands were so cold, and I couldn’t move them,” Han said. “I was scared I couldn’t play.”

Han started playing the piano when she was three years old and has been playing ever since.

“When I was younger, my mom would push me and make me practice,” she said. “I was home-schooled, too, and so (the piano) became my best friend. I would spend about 10 hours a day practicing.”

At age 13, she made her solo debut with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and moved to the U.S. alone at age 15. Since then, she has made a name for herself. In 2009, she was honored with an award from the Gawon Music Awards.

Han, 28, is currently working with Steinway Records to produce her own albums.

“While I am still young, I want to continue to perform and become a concert pianist,” she said. “Eventually, I do want to stop traveling and start a family.”

Han performed the song “El Jaleo,” which focuses on love. Composer Theodore Wiprud wrote this song specifically for Han after being inspired by a John Singer Sargent painting.

“The composer and I were actually looking at this painting together when he decided that he wanted to write a piece for me,” Han said. “This was just two months ago.”

Han performed this two-month-old song at the museum on Sunday, and the audience seemed moved by her talent.

Carol Hadlich received a ticket from a member of the Museum Concert Series Committee and said she was very surprised by Han’s performance.

“I don’t know much about music, but wow,” she said. “She is just amazing.”

Another audience member, Brad Thorson, was moved by Han’s piano playing skills.

“I think she is absolutely fabulous, and her fingers move just like liquid,” he said.

Thorson said classical music wasn’t his favorite genre of music, but he was impressed with Han.

Although Han was the only performer on Sunday, she is not the only one to perform at the North Dakota museum of Art this year.

Organizing the event

Founding Director of the museum, Laurel Reuter, puts on at least five concerts each year for the Sunday Concerts in the Galleries.

“I start searching a year in advance for performers,” she said. “Each year, I decide on a focus as well, and this year is stars.”

The theme is supposed to represent young and talented stars. Reuter said she is passionate for that profile.

“If we don’t get them when they’re young, we won’t be able to afford them,” she added.

“A lot of considerations are taken when choosing performers, including expenses, but ultimately it’s the quality of the music,” Reuter said. “We support classical music, because we believe in it.”

The Myra Foundation supports the museum by donating a grant each year for performers and other expenses. Reuter also said the members associated with the museum are a big support.

Reuter’s overall passion for classical music is what keeps the concerts at the museum coming.

“Not everyone likes classical music,” Reuter said. “We do it for ourselves, and we let the public pay for it.”

Misti Meads is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].