Q&A with Seunghye Park: The South-Korean Royal Academy of Music Graduate Taking on The World of Classical Music 

Q) Nice to meet you Seunghye! What area of music is your expertise? 

A) I identify myself as a pianist, composer, and arranger.

Q)  How old are you?

A) I am 24 years old.

Q) Where are you from?

A) I am from South Korea and spent eight years studying in London at the Royal Academy of Music, where I completed my high school education and undergraduate studies. In 2022, I returned to Korea and am currently pursuing a master’s degree at Seoul National University.

Q)  What inspired you to pursue a career in classical music?

A) Since my childhood, I have always enjoyed watching TV shows like Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, and Disney. My favourite episodes were all the piano-related episodes, which naturally cultivated my love for classical music. At the age of 7, I was spellbound by Maksim Mrvica’s performance of Liszt’s Totentanz, which inspired me to pursue a career as a concert pianist. My time at the Royal Academy of Music was profoundly impactful. It provided me with invaluable musical education and gave me a clear vision of my future as a pianist and a musician.

Q) Can you share a memorable experience or performance from your time at the Royal Academy?

A) There were many moments that are memorable, but my favourites were the Bloomsbury Festival and the Students Create Festival. During my Multimedia Class in 2018-19, I collaborated with a composer (Max Burstyn) who was also studying at RAM, and I performed his music which interacted with audio-reactive visuals. We performed our works in festivals including the Bloomsbury Festival and were also featured in various platforms. The whole process was exciting and mind-blowing working with a composer and performing with audio-reactive visuals. Another memorable concert was my debut solo recital as a composer and arranger at the Students Create Festival. I was chosen to perform at Susie Sainsbury Theatre in RAM and I performed my own compositions and arrangements. This experience served as a turning point, prompting me to expand my career not only as a pianist but also as a composer.

Q) What challenges did you face during your academic journey, and how did you overcome them?

A) The most challenging period for me was during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. With the entire country and the conservatoire under lockdown, I had to return to my hometown in Korea. All concerts, classes, and plans were abruptly cancelled, leaving me feeling devastated. Despite the circumstances, I remained determined to share my music with others. Thus, I began uploading my piano performances and covers on my Instagram account. Eventually, my videos and social media presence caught the attention of the Royal Academy of Music, leading to their introduction of my work on their official account. Moreover, I took the opportunity to release two albums featuring my original compositions, arrangements, and classical music repertoire. Through these efforts, I was able to share my music with a global audience and garnered a growing number of fans and supporters. I am deeply grateful to all those who watched and listened to my music on various platforms and social media channels.

Q) As a recent graduate, what are your goals and aspirations in the classical music industry?

A) I am currently pursuing a master’s degree in classical piano. Over the next few years, my goal is to expand my repertoire in classical music while also producing a diverse range of music. I aim to promote myself to a broader audience by performing in numerous concerts and utilising social media to share insights into my life and musical journey. Ultimately, my life goal is to become a musician who can produce, perform, and share various genres of music through the piano. I aspire to be a leader in promoting the classical music industry and its relevance in contemporary society.

Q) How do you see classical music evolving?

A) Classical music is a genre rich in history and heritage, but its popularity has declined with the emergence and development of popular music and other genres. I believe this is a natural progression in music history. However, classical musicians must acknowledge the current state of the classical music industry and consider how to shape its future. Personally, I have a deep appreciation for all genres, from Classical, Pop, Musicals to K-pop. I am committed to continuing to introduce diverse music through online platforms and live concerts. In my view, the most crucial role for me, and indeed for all musicians, is to showcase and produce exceptional music for our audiences.

Q) Are there specific composers or musical periods that you feel particularly drawn to?

A) My favourite composer and pianist is Franz Liszt. Since I was very young, I have been listening to Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No.2, often associated with cartoons like Looney and Tom and Jerry. For me, the image of a ‘concert pianist’ was Bugs Bunny and the music was Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 or Totentanz. I really enjoy performing Liszt’s music because I become a person with a variety of personalities when I perform his music. My current repertoire includes Liszt’s Reminiscence of Don Juan and is definitely my favourite!

Q) In what ways do you incorporate technology and innovation into your classical music practice?

A) I am passionate about integrating technology into my music production and sharing processes.In today’s digital era, technology and innovative ideas play pivotal roles in the music industry. I leverage music software for composing and recording, while also utilising social media for sharing my music and engaging in marketing activities. I believe that in all industries, whether it be music, art, or any other field, the incorporation of technology and creative thinking is essential for success.

Q) Could you name your biggest musical inspiration?

A) My biggest musical inspiration is music itself. While it may seem like an obvious answer, it’s the most sincere one for me. I find myself listening to music in every mood-whether I’m happy, sad, or even angry. Whether I’m on public transport, walking, or practising, music is always there. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been born in the 21st century, where I can access a vast array of music right on my phone. My dream is to share my music in a way that inspires or evokes emotions in others. I believe in the power of music to connect people and touch their lives.

Q) What advice would you give to other young women looking to undertake a career in classical music or study at the Royal Academy of Music?

A) The Royal Academy of Music is one of the best conservatoires in the world and is a wonderful institution for all genders and music lovers who would like to undertake a career in classical music. You can learn, perform, and listen to all generations of classical music from Medieval Music to ongoing Modern music. Professors, students, and all musicians are exceptionally talented, and they are respectful of each other’s music. I look forward to seeing the rise of more remarkable women within the classical music industry.

CREDIT: Seunghye Park

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Written by: Mia Rose
Mia Rose is a Final Year Journalism student at the University of Sheffield. She has experience in feature writing and broadcasting. Mia forms a part of the Website Team at 5678 Magazine.