Meet the 2017 Ima Hogg Competition Semi-finalists! Part 1

Ten outstanding young musicians were selected as semi-finalists for the 2017 Ima Hogg Competition. From throwing tantrums to wearing fancy dresses – these contestants share their fondest memories of their musical backgrounds.

Things to know:

15,279: The number of miles our semi-finalists will travel to Houston for the competition

181: Combined years spent learning their instruments

4: number of contestants who are the only musicians in their families

1: number of times someone has run off stage crying

Hear these talented contestants perform in the 2017 Ima Hogg semi-finals competition Thursday, June 1, at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.

Alan Woo, 25

Alan Woo, piano

Alan Woo, piano

Alan grew up in Northern Virginia and began playing piano at age 4.

HS: What memories do you have of your first rehearsals or performances?

AW:  I remember in one of my first performances I sat down at the piano bench and decided not to play.  I vaguely recall running out and crying in the car before my mother convinced me to go back inside and try again.

HS:  Who are some of your most profound influences and what is the impact they have had on you?

AW:  My teachers have been my most profound influences.  It is already inspiring enough to experience their great musicianship, but I also think their willingness to help future generations of aspiring artists through our inevitable struggles is truly inspirational.  They are certainly my role models. 

HS: What are the top 5 songs on your playlist or iPod?

AW: Right now, Taneyev Piano Quintet, Schubert Piano Sonata D. 959, Chopin Cello Sonata, Mozart Marriage of Figaro, and Bartok Miraculous Mandarin.

Charles Seo, 21

Charles Seo, cello

Charles Seo, cello

Charles began his musical journey right here in Houston and started playing the cello at 9 years old.

HS:  Are there other musical people in your family? How has your family encouraged your musical career?

CS:  My mother majored in music composition; my father, visual art.  However my father served in the Korean Military Band so he knows how to play a lot of wind and brass instruments.  When I was very young, my mother placed me underneath the grand piano she played at church.  I believe that’s where my musical talent comes from.

HS:  What memories do you have of your first rehearsals or performances?

CS:  I remember playing the Shostakovich Cello Concerto with the Houston Youth Symphony at Stude Concert Hall many years ago.  When I perform at the semi-finals in Stude Hall again, it will be a very nostalgic experience.

HS: Who are some of your most profound influences and what is the impact they have on you?

CS:  I am such a lucky person to have met great mentors.  Brinton always encouraged me to try new things and pushed me very hard.  Getting me to learn violin pieces on the cello and challenging me to learn other difficult repertoire was his specialty.  Without him, I would have never gotten the chance to learn pieces like that, and I wouldn’t even have that mindset.

Churen Li, 21

Churen Li, piano

Churen Li, piano

Churen grew up in Singapore where she began piano studies at age 5.

HS:  Are there other musical people in your family? How has your family encouraged your musical career?

CL:  My grandparents teach Yangqin (Chinese hammered dulcimer) in a Chinese university.  My grandfather has early Parkinson’s and we can’t communicate much, but I love seeing the sparkle in his eyes when he listens to me play.

HS:  What memories do you have of your first rehearsals or performances?

CL:  One of my first performances was of a piece I wrote for my mother on her birthday, titled “To Mother with Love.”  I simply adored the euphoria of being onstage. I was also very excited about wearing my first fancy dress and putting on makeup for the first time.

HS:  What are the top 5 songs on your playlist or iPod?

CL:  Bach – St. Matthew’s Passion, Bill Evans – Someday My Prince Will Come, Morton Feldman – Rothko Chapel, Walton Violin Concerto 

Joseph Morris, 26

Joseph Morris, clarinet

Joseph Morris, clarinet

Joseph grew up in California and started playing clarinet at 9 years old.

HS:  What memories do you have of your first rehearsals or performances?

JM:  I remember my middle school band program had a system of “challenges” where you could attempt to usurp the chair of the person ahead of you in a head to head playing contest.  I feel like the clarinet section took this to the extreme and the healthy competition of it all kept me both enthusiastic and practicing. 

HS: Who are some of your most profound influences and what is the impact they have on you?

JM:  The most profound influence by far has been my clarinet teacher of nearly ten years, Yehuda Gilad.  He prioritized sincere and expressive musicianship above all else and that has remained very important to me.  Additionally, he felt it was important to encourage his students to be good and ethical human beings.   

HS:  What are the top 5 songs on your playlist or iPod?

JM:  The Beatles “Rubber Soul”, Richard Strauss’s ballet “Schlagobers”, selections from Verdi’s “Don Carlos”, Snarky Puppy “We Like it Here”, and Kendrick Lamar “untitled unmastered”.

I-Jung Huang, 22

I-Jung Huang, violin

I-Jung Huang, violin

I-Jung grew up in Taiwan and came to the United States at age 18 to study at the New England Conservatory of Music. She started playing the violin at 7 years old.

HS:  Are there other musical people in your family? How has your family encouraged your musical career?

IH:  My brother also learned a little bit of violin.  He was the person who actually got me started playing the violin. I am very grateful for my family because they support my music with all their effort.

HS: Who are some of your most profound influences and what is the impact they have on you?

IH:  My teacher from NEC, Miriam Fried, has long been my biggest influence.  She has an admirable work ethic and a confidence that she shares with all her students.   

HS:  What are the top 5 songs on your playlist or iPod?

IH:  For now, I have the Beethoven String Quartets recorded by the Guaneri Quartet.

Don’t miss the exciting conclusion of the 2017 Ima Hogg Competition on June 3! Get tickets and more info here.

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