Vail Valley questions: Pianist Joyce Yang answers 7 |

Vail Valley questions: Pianist Joyce Yang answers 7

Caramie Schnell
Vail Valley, COC olorado
Special to the DailyPianist Joyce Yang will perform with the Estonian National Symphony at Beaver Creek's Vilar Center in Colorado's Vail Valley Sunday evening.

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado “-In just 18 years it seems pianist Joyce Yang, who plays in Colorado’s Vail Valley Sunday, has mastered the instrument. She began playing the piano at age 4 in her home country of South Korea. Four years ago, at age 19, she won best performance and best new work at the Van Cliburn Competition. Yang is currently performing through the end of March with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra during its first-ever U.S. tour. During a one-day break at her apartment in New York City, Yang took time out from repacking and recovering from a mysterious illness plaguing her and half of the orchestra to answer a few questions for the Vail Daily.

Vail Daily: You performed with the New York Phil in Vail in the summer of 2007 and 2008. What did you think?

Joyce Yang: Yes, I’ve been in Aspen before that. Those were my only trips to Vail. I always thought those two times, I wish I had more time to sit by that little valley of restaurants; it was beautiful. I wish I could have a couple of days to ski this time, but it’s a working week, I guess.

VD: Are you the youngest out of all the orchestra members?

JY: I would say so. I’m not really a part of the orchestra, though. It’s an intersting feeling. I’m getting to know (the orchestra members). In the very beginning, we started out in Estonia. It was a very moving performance. Estonia is a such a small country, and here they were sending their only orchestra off to another continent. I felt like I was taking the orchestra away from them. I felt a little bit of pressure, but now we’ve gotten to know each other so well after spending every minute of the day together for the past 10 days. I really feel like part of the group.

Support Local Journalism

VD: You began playing the piano at age 4. What do you remember about those early days?

JY: I started with my aunt. I was her first student. She made the instrument seem very attractive to me. I remember playing the piano and having the piano; it was like a prized possession, and I could only learn something from her and play on the piano if I did something good. The piano was associated always with a positive feeling. I never really felt like anyone was pushing me or anyone wanted me to be a pianist. It was a very free experience.

VD: How did you learn?

JY: I learned by Suzuki Method, which is learning by ear, for the first few years. I remember waking up to the piece I was supposed to learn that week. My mom would put that record on. Having that music always be a part of my life, and never something I had to do, I think that was important. My parents are scientists, and they never intended to have a musician in the family. It was something that I love to do, and somehow it got to this point. … Somehow I ended up in this fantastic world of music, and I get to make music with people who are the best in the world, and I think that’s one of the greatest things I could do with my life.

VD: When you’re not performing or practicing the piano, what are some of the things you like to do?

JY: Living in New York, I’m a big foodie. Even on the road, I’m constantly calling restaurants to make reservations, so when I come back, I get to go to the places I like. I’m a big visual-arts person. I like to hop in museums whenever possible. I really associate music with what I see. It’s really closely related to me. If I can’t see something while I’m trying to create music, it all falls apart. I memorize everything visually, not by music notes. I correlate phrases and different parts of the piece with different colors and shapes, mainly. Looking at visual art, it really does inspire me quite a lot. Sometimes I see something, and all of sudden, something I couldn’t make sense of comes together.

Oh, and I shop like crazy. Online shpping is lethal because when you’re on the road, after the concert you’re all wired and there’s your computer waiting for you to shop. That gets a little dangerous sometimes.

VD: If you didn’t play the piano, what instrument would you play?

JY: I started violin as well as piano when I was 4. I guess violin wasn’t my thing. I’ve never thought about that. I would just play the piano. I love the sound of the cello, but I can’t see myself being a cellist. I love the sound of clarinet, but I can’t imagine playing that, either. … I can’t imagine playing something standing up, facing the audience ” that would freak me out.

VD: What’s on your iPod right now that you’re enjoying?

JY: Whatever my boyfriend puts on my iPod. I have two, actually. One for classical, one for non.

On the nonclassical, I have some British pop, some David Gray, some Stereophonics, Radiohead, Coldplay. I used to listen to jazz ” ambiance music ” when I come home, but that phase faded away. There’s also some Alicia Keys and Frank Sinatra. I’m all over the place. I love nonclassical music really because of the simplicity behind it. I really just don’t know why it makes us feel the way it does. Classical music is so intricate, composed with so much math behind it. … With pop songs, there are like three things going on. It’s so catchy, so simple, you feel like you’re on top of the world.

High Life editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or

What: Estonian National Symphony Orchestra with pianist Joyce Yang.

When: 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek.

Cost: $75 or $90 depending on seating.

More information: Call 970-845-TIXS or visit

Support Local Journalism