Eunae Koh appointed as newest SPCO violinist

“We are happy to welcome to our orchestra the wonderful violinist Eunae Koh,” said SPCO Co-concertmaster Ruggero Allifranchini. “She will add virtuosity, musical energy, and depth to our violin section.”

First appearing with the SPCO as Guest Artist in 2017, Eunae Koh will now begin this season as the newest member of our violin section. She leads an active career as an accomplished soloist, chamber musician, orchestral leader, and teacher. Koh has been a soloist for Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra, Colby Symphony Orchestra, Hwaum Chamber Orchestra, and New England Symphony Orchestra, among several others. She served for three years as concertmaster at Haffner Sinfonietta in addition to teaching undergraduate and graduate students at the New England Conservatory and Seoul National University. Her teaching experience also benefitted from serving as Donald Weilerstein and Young Uck Kim’s teaching assistant. Shortly after receiving her master’s degree from New England Conservatory, Koh recently became a faculty member at Yellow Barn Music Festival’s Young Artists Program and New York Music School in 2018.

Since playing with the SPCO, she has found much inspiration from the musicians’ attitudes and experimentation. Koh, who was unanimously chosen by our audition committee, excitedly explained that “the SPCO is really willing to take risks, which is very rare in a professional orchestra. The music could just stay at the same level, but they are always trying something new, both in performance and choice of repertoire. I feel very fortunate to have the chance to play with them every week and grow my musicianship!”

Early on, Koh found her knack for violin at the age of six after switching from the piano, almost as if she were made for it. “My piano teacher actually recommended I try violin because my hands were too small to reach a full octave on the piano! The violin is one of the smallest instruments, so it was a better fit,” she laughed.

She quickly showed profound promise as a musician and made her concerto debut at the age of nine with the Seoul Symphony Orchestra. Koh went on to win the Seong-Yawng Park Special Prize at Isang Yun International Competition, an award presented to young Korean performers who show the most potential.

In previous years, Koh mainly focused on solo performance, but she eventually felt that something was missing. “The Korean music society is very competitive, and musicians tend to focus on technique and accuracy. In some ways, I felt a little stuck. I didn’t know why exactly,” she said. “In 2013, I realized it was time to change my environment and move to the U.S.” Later that year, she made her U.S. debut performing the Brahms Concerto with the New England Conservatory Symphony Orchestra. And just two years later, she took home Second Prize and Chamber Music Prize at the Michael Hill International Competition.

“I learned it’s not so much about my playing; it’s more about the music — that there needs to be less distance, so to speak, between the performance and the audience.”

She gives credit to Donald Weilerstein, one of her mentors and collaborators, whom she met at the New England Conservatory when she first started exploring chamber music. “He changed the way of my performing and how I see the music. In Korea, I had built up fundamental techniques, but it was in the U.S. where I learned how to play together with others. I learned it’s not so much about my playing; it’s more about the music — that there needs to be less distance, so to speak, between the performance and the audience. Through conversations with the audience, I truly got to know the power of the music and how it affects people.”

“I never thought about it [classical music] as a specific genre. Even without background knowledge, it’s just music!”

During her time teaching and interacting first-hand with concertgoers, Koh sees classical music as moving beyond the constrictions of genre, producing a deep connection in listeners. “I never thought about it as a specific genre,” she said. “Even without background knowledge, it’s just music!” She finds joy in introducing classical music to new listeners and looks forward to continuing to do so in the Twin Cities.

Adapted from the official Press Release, found here.