Born in South Korea and currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Hwayoung Shon is a master of the gayageum, a Korean traditional string instrument, and a composer actively exploring the link between music. She blends Korean instruments with other cultures through her impeccable technique and in-depth musical interpretation.
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 beautiful sound captivated her, inspiring a lifelong passion for the traditional Korean instrument. Shon embarked on a rigorous and dedicated journey to master the gayageum, meticulously studying its intricacies and traditions. After just two years of practice, Shon won first place in the National Korean Traditional Music Competition. which led 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 to a wider audience. She has been actively incorporating 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.
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, and many 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.
She has recently reached new heights in her musical journey. She was honored to perform as a soloist at the Korean National Day Commemorate Concert at the prestigious Herbst Theatre. Beyond solo performances, she has actively shared 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. She has also collaborated with Neue Music Korea for chamber performances and solo performance as a guest soloist, exploring new musical styles. Additionally, she has engaged in improvisational performances with jazz master Karlton Hester and collaborated on projects such as chamber music and solo performances. Shon collaborated with the erhu master Guo Gan at the France World Music Festival, presenting solo performances. 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 perform across diverse events, including the KAMSA Youth Orchestra, Korean Consulate in SF, Musical Meditation series, Musica Medicina in India, Cities and Memory in the UK, the Helmholtz Institute in Germany for Polar sounds project.
Most recently, she collaborated with award winning composer Jean Ahn, performing her piece with the Santa Cruz Symphony under the baton of Maestro Daniel Stewart.
Shon recently released a solo live album featuring 19th-century traditional gayageum music and an improvisational duet album with an acoustic piano. Inspired by the 15th-century Joseon Dynasty’s rite music and collaborations with UK and German institutes, her compositional work has been selected for 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 also wrote columns for The Korea Times and Hyundai News U.S. for several years in order to promote Korean traditional music.
Hwayoung Shon is a masterful musician dedicated to exploring Korea’s rich cultural heritage and sharing it with audiences worldwide.