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Hwayoung Shon


Born in South Korea and currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Hwayoung Shon is a gayageum master and composer who actively explores the connection between traditional and contemporary music. Her impeccable technique and deep musical understanding allow her to seamlessly integrate Korean instrument into other musical cultures.

Hwayoung Shon's musical journey started at the age of 3, when she began playing the piano. At 8, a chance encounter with the gayageum's captivating sound ignited a lifelong passion for the traditional Korean instrument. Since then, Shon dedicated herself to mastering the gayageum, meticulously studying its intricacies and traditional techniques. After only two years of practice, Shon won first place in the National Korean Traditional Music Competition. leading to her debut at KBS's New Artist Music Concert in 1986, launching her promising career. Shon is passionate about preserving and promoting traditional Korean music into various cultures and musical genres.  Her extensive experience working with jazz musicians, K-pop stars, world musicians, and classical orchestras has given her a unique perspective on how to blend traditional Korean music with contemporary styles. Inspired by diverse cultural experiences, she seeks to convey stories and human emotions through music. Shon collaborate with musicians from various genres to share stories and human emotions, fostering a dialogue between Eastern and Western cultures.


Shon graduated with the distinction in performance and received a full government scholarship from the National Gugak High School and Seoul National University. She has also been the top winner of numerous prominent Korean music contest, including Goryung National Gayageum Competition, Dalgubeol National Gugak Competition, National Student Gugak Competition, Daegu National Gugak Competition, and more. Shon has graced the stages of prestigious concert halls around the world, captivatiog audiences with her performances. Her performances have been broadcasted on KBS Radio, KBS TV, MBC TV, EBS TV, BBC, WGVU-FM, Wave Farm, KAZU-FM and more.

She studied with Hye-Sook Park, Mi-Kyung Lee, Sang-Soon Kim, Seung-Hee Ahn, Chae-Suk Lee, Chong-Ja Kim. The late Seong-Chun Lee, the director of the National Gugak Center, praised her as a once-in-a-genetation talent. 


Shon's musical journey has recently reached new heights. Notably, she was honored to perform as a soloist at the prestigious Herbst Theatre for the Korean National Day Commemorate Concert. Beyond solo performances, Shon  actively shares her passion for the gayageum through guest artist appearances, lectures, and research visits at esteemed institutions like UC Santa Cruz, Stanford University, Seoul National University, etc. Her collaborative spirit shines through her work with Neue Music Korea for chamber performances and solo performance, exploring new musical styles. She has also engaged in improvisational performances with jazz master Karlton Hester,  collaborated  on projects like jazz ensemble and solo performances. Shon's international reach is evident in collaborations with erhu master Guo Gan at the France World Music Festival, presenting solo performances and Musica Medicina in India. Furthermore, her duo performance with violinist Yulee Seo was featured as a Valentine showcase of the Marin Symphony. Her dedication to the gayageum has garnered invitations to a wide range of events, including the KAMSA Youth Orchestra, Korean Consulate in San Francisco, Musical Meditation series, Musica Medicina in India, Cities and Memory in the UK, the Helmholtz Institute in Germany for Polar sounds project, and most recently, she collaboration with award winning composer Jean Ahn, performing her piece with the Santa Cruz Symphony under the baton of Maestro Daniel Stewart.


Shon's artistic pursuits extend beyond performances. She recently released a solo live album featuring 19th-century traditional gayageum music, alongside an improvisational duet album with an acoustic pianist James Armstrong. Inspired by the 15th-century Joseon Dynasty’s rite music and collaborations fostered by the Helmholtz institute in Germany, her compositional work has been selected and released in the United Kingdom. 

Her recent compositions include 'Ritual,' 'Nostalgia,' 'Ancient Traveler,' 'Into the Abyss,' 'Prologue,' 'Sing to the Lord,' and more. Shon further championed Korean traditional music by writing columns for The Korea Times and Hyundai News U.S. for several years. 


Hwayoung Shon is a masterful musician dedicated to exploring Korea’s rich cultural heritage and sharing it with audiences worldwide. Through this beautiful instrument, Shon endeavors to connect the world, spreading warmth and hope and instilling courage in people.

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