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Teachers Who Made A Difference: The Origins Of Joyce Yang's Artistry

Our topic this week is "teachers who made a difference." Tell us your own story of a teacher, mentor or instructor who made a difference in your life. Below, pianist Joyce Yang remembers her most influential piano teachers -- one of whom was her aunt.

I’ve had three invaluable piano teachers in my life, each helpful in a different way.

The first was my aunt, who introduced me to the instrument when I was four years old as the best toy a little girl could have. It never felt like school; it was always something I wanted to do. We would play board games and the winner got to play the piano.  My aunt’s encouragement was incredible, and her approval kept me going.

Choong-Mo Kang in Seoul revolutionized the way I thought about the instrument. With him, everything had to be perfect. Never before had I spent hours on a single measure!  We explored every option, like how putting one more gram of weight into the notes changes the color. Playing the piano was no longer about just playing pretty melodies. He showed me the intricacies and nuances of the instrument.

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Dr. Yoheved Kaplinsky at Juilliard has been my teacher for 13 years – since I was a newly arrived eleven-year-old in the States - and she turned me into the artist I am today.  She gives me a great balance between freedom and guidance. Sometimes my spontaneity gets me into trouble -- I will make a whimsical gesture, climax too early with nowhere to go, or bring out weird voices. Veda helps me to step back and see that something I may think is so exquisite doesn’t fit into the big picture.  We are constantly trying to discover my own voice in the context of the beauty and essence of each composition.  When I’m practicing or performing, I hear her in my head!  My teacher, always.

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Joyce Yang