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Hwayoung Shon


Musical artist Hwayoung Shon is a master of gayageum, a composer, and a writer who crosses the world based in the San Francisco South Bay. 

Shon made her public debut at the age of 10 in 1986 with the Korean Broadcasting System as a rookie concert after winning the grand prize at the Korean traditional music student competition only two years after starting gayageum. She won the national Korean traditional music competition at 14. She took a bold step toward the music competition and grand prize winner in numerous Korean music competitions, including 11 national Korean music competitions. At 17, she was awarded the grand prize, the Minister of Culture and Tourism award, at the national gayageum competition, one of Korea's most prestigious gayageum competitions. Despite her young age, her performance was featured in MBC TV newspapers and acclaimed by the media as the most beautiful and gorgeous-sounding performer. 

Shon had learned many instruments in the early days and expanded her musical knowledge base. She started learning the piano at 3, making her stand out as a minor in college. Shon also learned a violin and a recorder instrument and won the national recorder competition in Busan, Korea. Since then, she has learned to conduct, janggu, danso, geomungo, pansori, jeongga, ajeang, flute, cello, and composition. 

As a government scholarship student, Shon graduated from the National Gugak High School with the highest performance distinction and entered Seoul National University with the top performance. While attending SNU, Professor Seong-Chun Lee, who later became the director of the National Gugak Center, praised her as a performer who would only appear once every few decades and even by paying attention to her composing talent early on. 

When she entered Seoul National University in 1994, she collaborated with a K-pop band on air for the first time in Korea. Shon has performed in recitals, ensembles, and orchestral collaborations since 1986. Her performance was broadcasted nationwide by KBS, MBC, and EBS in Korea. She performed in the United States, Japan, and Europe. She studied gayageum with Hye-Sook Park, Mi-Kyung Lee, Sang-Soon Kim, Seung-Hee Ahn, Chae-Suk Lee, and Chong-Ja Kim. 

Her recent appearances as a soloist have performed in many prestigious halls, such as Herbst Theatre for the National Day of Korea Commemorative Concert in 2018. She was invited as a special guest soloist and collaborator with the KAMSA orchestra in the U.S. in 2018. She held a gayageum lecture concert at the invitation of the HKMCC Library in 2019. During the 2020 pandemic, The France World Music Festival introduced her solo performance and collaboration with erhu master Guo Gan. She performed composer Jean Ahn's duet song for gayageum and violin, which aired as Valentine's Day showcase on the Marin Symphony Channel in 2021. She made experimental attempts through distant concerts with Musica Medicina from India in 2021. She performed a full version of traditional Kim Juk-Pa sanjo, known as scattered melodies, live without an audience in San Francisco, 2021. She performed her solo song 'Ritual' to the audience. On the same stage, she performed improvisational music with Jazz master Karlton Hester and Historian Musicism in San Francisco. She also performed at Stanford Campbell Recital Hall as a guest soloist for the Wooden Fish Ensemble concert in 2021. Shon introduced the Korean folk song Arirang to the children selected for the Time Kid of The Year in 2022. As a guest lecturer and artist at the World Music Composition Seminar at UC Santa Cruz in the winter quarter, she introduced gayageum and how to compose using gayageum. She performed the works of DMA students in UCSC in April in Santa Cruz Festival. Her live album of 'Scattered Melodies' was released in November 2022 as digital and physical in worldwide, including Apple Music and Amazon Music. Her duet Improvisation works of jazz pianist James Armstrong is pending release. Shon's compositional work 'Ancient Traveler' was selected for the Polar Sea Project in England and will launch on January 30th, 2023..

As a composer, she wrote a song to Yoon Dong-Ju's poem, 'Prologue,' dedicated to Fr. Han and the world premiere at HKMCC in 2018, and the Easter chorus 'Sing To The Lord' premiered at the HKMCC in 2019. She conducted the Sacred Heart Choir of HKMCC and presented her works. In addition, she published her composition of a Korean children's play song as a gayageum variation, 'Nostalgia' by J.W.Pepper, in 2021. The song, 'Ritual,' motivated by Korean traditional instrument geomungo and Buddhist 'The Heart Sutra,' was released on YouTube as a world premiere in 2020 and published by J.W.Pepper in 2021. 

As a writer, she partially participated in publishing a linguistic book called 'The Language of SNU Students' in 1998 and began writing in The Korea Times in the U.S. in 2018. Since 2021, she has been active as a Korean traditional music columnist in the Korea Times and U.S. Hyundai News.

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