GVSU piano professor to perform on campus

GVL / Courtesy - gvsu.edu

GVL / Courtesy – gvsu.edu

Taylor Crowley

Sookkyung Cho, Grand Valley State University assistant professor of piano, is an expressive pianist who has traveled around the globe to showcase her talent. Cho will be performing solo repertoire Tuesday, Nov. 7, at 7:30 p.m. in the Sherman Van Solkema Recital Hall in the Haas Center for Performing Arts.

Cho graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music from The Juilliard School in New York and her master’s degree in music from The Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. She received her doctor of musical arts from Juilliard as well.

Cho has performed in places such as Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, Sarasota Opera House and the Baltimore Museum of Art, and in countries such as Canada, France and China.

Cho is a Korean-born pianist who is known for taking the audience’s opinion into consideration during her performances. She is thoughtful in her music choices and tends to connect fully with her pieces that she spends the most time practicing. 

Although Cho recalled loving piano all throughout her life, she said she did not expect to do it professionally. 

“I’ve been playing for 25 years or more,” Cho said. “I liked playing the piano when I was young, but I didn’t think I was going to be a professor or a professional performer. I just grew to really like it.”

Cho’s passion for piano stemmed from a teacher she had in high school. 

“My high school teacher that I had through 11th and 12th grade really taught me how to love music,” she said. “He taught me how to read carefully through the scores and also how to be imaginative, like making the music that I’m playing my own. He made me grow to love music and enjoy my time of practicing. I still think about him in my work.”

One of the pieces Cho will be performing is “The Serpent’s Kiss” from “The Garden of Eden” by William Bolcom. Cho described this piece as jazzy, which is not typically her style. She said she chose this piece for the audience because she thought it would be something they would like.

Moreover, Cho said she likes to play music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert. 

“I’m not a flashy type of performer,” she said. “I try to be wise in my playing.”

Even still, people who have seen Cho play say that audiences can expect a moving performance.

“The audience should expect a dynamic performance,” said Brian De Young, a part-time GVSU music professor and colleague of Cho. “She is very expressive but also very dramatic in her playing. She has a range of expression and emotion that communicates to the audience directly in a very effective way.” 

About the pieces she performs, Cho said even if a connection to the song is not immediate, it develops over time. 

“Even if you don’t like your pieces at first or you don’t feel connected to that piece, you learn to connect because you spend so much time with it,” Cho said. “The Schumann is a very new piece. It’s around 35 minutes, and it’s the first time I feel kind of scared but also excited. 

“It seems like there’s a whole universe in that 35 minutes.”