During a recent trip to South Korea, I had the opportunity to meet the wonderful collaborative pianist Ja Yeon Kang. Collaborative piano – also known as accompanying – is the oft neglected art of working together with other musicians who are featured in the limelight, providing them with musical support through a keen ear for ensemble playing and exceptional emotional empathy. Where soloists strive to draw attention to themselves, collaborative pianists defer to serve others. As a collaborative pianist myself, I welcome any opportunity to recognize the remarkable work of amazing musicians such as Ms. Kang as vastly under-appreciated musical heroines/heroes. Ms. Kang was kind enough to share some of her international pedagogical background, as well as her insights into what life is like for professional musicians in the South Korean classical music scene.
Ja Yeon Kang, Pianist, has appeared as both soloist and collaborative artist at Barbican Centre, Wigmore Hall, Holywell Music Room, and LSO St. Luke, in London as well as throughout the numerous venues in the United States and Korea. A native of Korea, she holds a Bachelor’s Degree at the Seoul National University and a Master’s Degree at the Peabody Institute where she received the Laura Adelberg Award for her chamber work. Ms. Kang finished a Doctorate degree from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and City University London, supported by the Guildhall Trust and the Leverhulme Trust. She received the accompanist prizes at Guildhall school and the Concordia Foundation Award. Her primary teachers include Yong Hi Moon, Ronan O’hara, and Graham Johnson
Ja Yeon’s doctorate dissertation is on Schumann’s late vocal and piano music and she recently finished translating Nancy Reich’s 『Clara Schumann』 in Korean.
Previously, she was on the faculty of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama for the keyboard study and worked as a repetituer at the National Opera Studio in London. Operatic experience includes Jonathan Dove’s ‘Flight’ with British Youth Opera and ‘Elvin und Elmire’ with Lieder Theater London.
Kang currently serves as the Adjunct Professor of Collaborative Piano at the Sookmyung Women’s University and teaches piano literature at the University of Seoul. She recently joined as a faculty at the Montecito International Music Festival in USA and has been also engaged as an official pianist for the Osaka international music competition.