South Korean pianist wins the gold medal

Korean art 010-A

A sample of ancient Korean ceramics on display at the Honolulu Museum of Art.


Last Saturday, a 28 year old South Korean won the Van Cliburn Piano Competition in Texas after a grueling two weeks of competition.  His rendition of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 sealed the deal.  He is the first South Korean to win the Van Cliburn Competition.  Congratulations, Mr. Yekwon Sunwoo!  As a Korean-American, I am so happy that a South Korean won.  It’s quite an honor.

Van Cliburn was the first American to win the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow in 1958 at the age of 23.  This occurred during the Cold War, which is why this victory by an American is so special.

David’s mother was an avid pianist, herself, and made her husband take her and their children (Michael, David, and Wanda) to the Waikiki Shell to see Van Cliburn perform.  I believe this was in 1959, when David was 10 years old.  David has never forgotten it.  My parents, on the other hand, were oblivious to classical music and did not take me and my siblings to that performance or any other symphonic concert.

Van Cliburn died in 2013 at the age of 78.  It’s wonderful that he founded the Van Cliburn Piano Competition, which is his legacy and promotes the careers of young pianists who win the gold medal.

Good luck to Yekwon Sunwoo!  I hope to see him perform in Hawaii someday.

7 Responses to “South Korean pianist wins the gold medal”

  1. honoluluaunty91 Says:

    congrats! one of the korean dramas that i watched was naeil’s cantabile – silly show but great piano pieces. very enjoyable.

  2. Christine Says:

    congrats are in order! What a beautiful piece of ceramic too.

  3. Olga Says:

    Interesting that your early exposures to classical music were so different yet you both developed a passion for it.

  4. Linda Starr Says:

    congrats to them both; my mom used to play classical and other types of music after we went to bed when we were young and we all would fall asleep listening to the music, to this day I still love all types of music and especially classical; I think all children should be exposed to all forms of music because they may have a hidden talent that might not otherwise be discovered

  5. DJan Says:

    Congratulations to the young man. That is quite an accomplishment. 🙂

  6. DeniseinVA Says:

    That is wonderful, and must have been quite a performance. I would have loved listening to it. Interesting story about David and his mum sowing the seed for his love of the classics. My dad did that for me. He was a piano player and I think he would have enjoyed this performance very much. Thanks for sharing Gigi.

  7. Nadya Says:

    That is quite an honor. My parents, like David’s, took me to concerts in our area (Eastern Oregon), what a treat for him to have heard Van Cliburn!
    One of my friends is on the board of a non profit for a pianist who wants young people to have access to music lessons and to good instruments. A couple of times each year they have a “Ten Grands” concert, with ten pianists playing beautiful grand pianos! The performers range from late teens up, and all are fantastic!

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