MSU Cellist Wins National Competition

Music student Chae won Hong takes top prize at Hellam Young Artists Competition.

Chae won Hong came to MSU to pursue a performance diploma from the College of Music and work under the mentorship of Professor Suren Bagratuni.

A young cellist from South Korea pursuing a performance diploma from the MSU College of Music recently took first prize in the 21st annual Hellam Young Artist Competition through the Springfield Symphony Association.

Chae won Hong was among three finalists selected from a pool of more than 50 highly-qualified candidates who applied to the Missouri-based competition. Musicians ranged in age from 18-24 and hailed from U.S. music schools, colleges and conservatories that included The Juilliard School, Yale School of Music and Curtis Institute of Music. Since 1997, the competition has showcased more than 475 young artists, awarded 52 prizes, and provided a springboard for advanced studies, performance positions, or teaching and academic posts.

“It was so thrilling to participate in such a challenging competition, and to have conversations with super talented people afterward,” says Hong who won for her performance of the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1. “This was my first serious competition since coming to MSU. I am planning to participate in some international competitions, so this was a big step in boosting my self-confidence.”

Hong came to MSU after meeting MSU Professor of Cello Suren Bagratuni in Korea four years ago. She says meeting Bagratuni was a life-changing moment, and she was determined to come to the states and join his studio.

“Without him and without MSU, I would never be the person I am now,” she says. “I used to have little self-confidence, and always needed somebody to compliment my work. He’s taught me that confidence comes from within. He totally opened that world for me.”

Bagratuni believes Hong is the first student from MSU to win the 20-year-old competition. He says he looks forward to working with her more as she completes the second year of her performance diploma and enters the MSU master’s program in Fall 2017.

“Since the very first time I heard her play, I couldn’t help noticing her tremendous energy and dedication to music and especially the cello,” says Bagratuni of Hong, who also took top honors in the Getting to Carnegie competition in January 2016. “She has a vivid musical imagination and knowledge of styles. Her talent and work ethic are significant factors in her success.”

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