Music Student Competes on Stage at Carnegie

MSU Cellist takes top honor at second annual competition in New York.

Cellist Chae won Hong is introduced by pianist, composer, and competition director Julian Gargiulo on the Zankel Hall stage of Carnegie Hall.
A portion of the competition included interview-style interaction with the artists and the voting audience.
Chae won Hong performs Julian Gargiulo’s Cello Sonata premiere.

South Korean born cellist Chae won Hong came to MSU seeking inspiration and new experiences. Pursuing her performance diploma at the College of Music, Hong’s time at MSU touts an honor that she describes as the most intense, rewarding, and fun experience of her career: Competing for a chance to perform at Carnegie Hall.

“Taking part in this competition was a pure joy,” says Hong. “Getting an opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York, and then to take first place among such an outstanding group of competitors was very rewarding and an unforgettable experience for me as a young musician.”

Hong was one of four cello finalists selected from dozens of highly qualified applicants in the “Getting to Carnegie” competition held Jan. 17 of 2016. Joining her on the Zankel Hall Stage at Carnegie Hall for the final competition were artists from The Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, Hungary, The Peabody Institute at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD.,, and the Juilliard School in in New York City, NY.

The idea for “Getting to Carnegie” is the brainchild of pianist and composer Julian Gargiulo. Inspired by his own desire to elevate appreciation of classical music among concertgoers, his unique competition combines performance with an on-stage question and answer session with the audience that is charged with selecting the winner.

Born in Italy, Gargiulo keeps a busy schedule, touring internationally and splitting home studios between Paris and New York. He enjoys finding the time to devote to what he jokingly refers to as “The Hunger Games of music, with a different kind of bow.”

The competition began with each cellist performing a movement of Gargiulo’s Cello Sonata premiere. After their performance, each cellist was introduced to the audience in Julian’s conversational style moderation of “Saturday Night Live meets lecture recital.” The introduction, Hong says, helped the nervously-charged artists relax and open up to the audience, resulting in an interesting mix of serious and playful interaction.

“It was really fun,” says Hong. “The interviews were like a talk show, which really helped release the nervous energy of the competition.”

Hong recalls the audience really enjoying themselves, asking lots of questions, and taking ownership in their role to vote for their top choice.

Professor of Cello Suren Bagratuni, Hong’s primary mentor at the MSU College of Music remembers her commitment and high level of preparation for the competition.

“She had to learn a completely new piece and perform it before the composer and audience, live. That can be very stressful for a young musician,” Bagratuni says.  “And, with limited time to prepare, she memorized the entire piece and played it beautifully for me. It was a remarkable achievement.”

Looking to the future, Hong plans to utilize her remaining time at MSU studying with Bagratuni.

“I’m trying to learn all the music I can and play it at the highest level possible while I’m still here,” she says. “I’m looking forward to traveling and performing around Europe, discovering more places like MSU to inspire me, and being true to my heritage and the essence of music as a cellist.”

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