Interview with Jinjoo Cho: From Cleveland to Carnegie

May 31, 2016, 8:59 AM · After a violinist wins a prestigious international violin competition, his or her career takes off, in a puff of magic...

That's the fairy tale, of course. But in reality, every gold medalist is left to build his or her own success.

For Jinjoo Cho, who took home the gold in the 2014 International Violin Competition of Indiana, she is taking those exciting opportunities to tour as a soloist, but she also is building programs closer to home -- her main home being Cleveland, Ohio.

About the exciting concert dates: on June 9 Jinjoo will debut at Carnegie Hall with pianist Hyun Soo Kim, in a recital of works by Robert and Clara Schumann, Joan Tower, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, John Corigliano and Franz Waxman.

Closer to home, Jinjoo has been teaching for the last year at Oberlin Conservatory, and in the fall she will begin teaching duties at the Cleveland Institute of Music, the place where she first landed when at age 14 she came to the United States from Seoul, Korea to study at CIM's Young Artist Program. She also has started a summer music festival and institute for young musicians in Cleveland called ENCORE Chamber Music, which will take place for the first time this June and July. Lately she also has been performing with Classical Revolution Korea, where musicians travel all across Korea to give free concerts and meet audiences in caf├ęs.

A graduate of both the Curtis Institute of Music and the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM), Jinjoo studied with Joseph Silverstein, Pamela Frank, and Paul Kantor, and Jaime Laredo. Jinjoo took some time to chat with me about her upcoming Carnegie recital, as well as her other projects.

Jinjoo Cho
Jinjoo Cho.

Laurie: What is most exciting to you about playing in Carnegie Hall?

Jinjoo: Everything about it is absolutely surreal. It is a bit crazy to think about it, so currently I'm pretending like it is no big deal. I'm sure it'll hit me afterwards!

Laurie:Tell me about your Carnegie program - what were your thoughts about choosing the repertoire? I'm actually not very familiar with Clara Schumann's works for violin, how did you discover them? What made you want to include those? Was it your intent to have a balance of male and female composers represented?

Jinjoo: Creating this program involved taking suggestions from lots of different people and also reading tons of music. My pianist Hyun Soo always keeps me very open-minded about pieces that are a bit unusual. In the beginning, nothing was for sure, but I knew I wanted to play Robert Schumann's D minor Sonata; and so the whole program was actually created around that. Then it was very natural to think of Clara's works, and the whole program sort of evolved from there.

Laurie: I understand you recently created a new chamber music program for high school and college students in Cleveland called ENCORE - what is it, and what inspired you start it? Is it related to the ENCORE that used to be associated with CIM?

Jinjoo: LINKENCORE Chamber Music is a seven-week, three-program, summer festival for young chamber musicians with a mission to teach the collaborative power of music. We are our own program, and not directly related to CIM or the previous Encore School for Strings. However, our founding faculty members, who were previously faculty for Encore School for Strings, felt obliged to honor the musical legacy that the Encore brand left in the Northeast Ohio.

I have always felt a sense of responsibility to make sure chamber music remains closely associated with true friendships, collaborations, living and breathing through music -- completely detached from one's ego or self-importance. In this day and age, we all need help to do this -- to reconnect with inner emotions and soul. It is my goal to create a transformative experience where young musicians are led to discover this inner connection between music and themselves early on by collaborating with others. I truly believe Encore will not only grow better musicians, but also better human beings who are kind, passionate, and loving, who will ultimately shape the horizon of music for the better.

Laurie: Not every soloist enjoys teaching -- when did you discover you liked it? Do you have any teaching role models?

Jinjoo: Teaching has always been a part of my life. My mother, who was never trained in music, was able to teach herself, and teach me as well, simply by observing and doing research. And even now, she is never afraid teach herself and to learn new things. Being her daughter, I learned to process information in a certain way and to teach myself early on. The process of learning has always been very fascinating to me, no matter what the subject. I love being able to help that process go more efficiently for my students. It is very educational to teach! I learn so much from watching how my students work. As far as role models go, I just try to absorb all the advice any experienced teachers offer.

Laurie:How long have you been teaching at Oberlin Conservatory?

Jinjoo: One year so far! It has been an amazing experience, with inspiring colleagues and great students. The college atmosphere is quite special; it's very familial.

Laurie:I understand you have been appointed Teacher of Violin at the Cleveland Institute of Music for the 2016-17 academic year. What are your thoughts about teaching at CIM - your alma mater, yes?

Jinjoo: Yes, it is my alma mater. It is an incredible honor and privilege... I'm just very excited!!

Laurie: I understand you have been traveling around Korea, playing in cafes! What is Classical Revolution Korea, and how did you get involved? Does it seem like the kind of thing that could work in America?

Jinjoo: Actually, Classical Revolution is a campaign that started in San Francisco! Classical Revolution Korea is one of the charters of this movement. It is a great feeling to give back and to make the arts accessible to the public. It is also very liberating for me to perform for audience members who have absolutely no pre-conceived idea of what classical music should be. The audience feedback is always very interesting, and sometimes unexpected. We have a lot of fun presenting the concerts.

BELOW: Jinjoo Cho performs the Janacek Violin Sonata with pianist Hyun Soo Kim.

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June 2, 2016 at 05:22 PM · Lovely, only the balance is often off in the recording. Way too much piano in many places! Violin is sometimes completely drowned out in several instances. Otherwise this is a delightful performance. Thank you for sharing this.


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