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Interview: pianist/composer Eunha So
(Published: July 23, 2020)

Q: What initially sparked your interest in music and how old were you?

A: I was six years old when I first started playing piano. That was the first time I got involved with music as far as I can remember. I used to go to a music studio after school everyday to play the piano, when I didn't have my own at home yet. The studio had multiple practice rooms. While I was waiting for my turn to use the room, I liked listening to the other students' playing and practicing. When I was twelve years old, I got my first mp3 player. I was listening to music consistently, before going to bed and when I was walking to school, etc. I think that's when I really got interested in music. (I moved to the States from South Korea when I started high school). In high school, I joined the school jazz band and participated in a non-profit jazz organization for youth -- Colorado Conservatory for the Music (CCJA). I started performing with other peers and have met mentors through CCJA. I loved hanging out and getting to know people through music, and love the process of creating music together. Ever since then, I wanted to become a musician.

Q: Were you surrounded by music growing up? Where there are any musicians in your family?

A: Growing up, although none of my family members is a musician, My mom was a huge fan of classical music. I recall there was always classical music being played at home through a cassette player. My mom really loved listening to Chopin's Nocturnes, especially the Nocturne in E-flat major, Op.9, No.2. I didn't put too much thought into it, but I might have been influenced by my mom's taste. Chopin is also one of my favorite composers. Other than that, Church was another place I would hear music mainly, until I was in high school.

Q: As an artist, how would you say you have evolved over the years?

A: I have always been a good student and loved music --- both listening and performing. In the past couple of years, I have learned to become a professional from a student. Of course, I will never stop learning, but it feels that I am taking steps to become a musician in the real world. Especially through the creation process of my debut album, Reminiscence, that I released this album last year, I was able to take the first step to put music out under my name. My music is heavily influenced by Jazz, but over the years I have embraced my background of being a Korean and spending my teenage years in Colorado more into music. In my album Reminiscence, most of the inspiration of the compositions comes from my personal life stories, and I love the idea of expressing them through compositions and performing. I am excited for the more stories and experiences to come in my life, and recreate them into something unique through my music.

Q: What are some of the challenges you have faced, both personally and professionally, in your musical career? How did you overcome them?

A: Personally, finding my preference, figuring out my sound has been the most challenging part in my musical career. There are so many different kinds of music that I listen to and like, and it constantly influences my music and changes my approach to performing and writing music. Sometimes, it is easy to doubt myself and get overwhelmed, because there are so many influences that I want to digest and put it out. When this happens, I have to remember to just enjoy music and the learning journey, and make sure to take time for myself. Just don't give up!

Q: How would you describe your new album?

A: My album Reminiscence represents sentimental memories and reminiscences of the days I want to remember. Each song has a background story. For example, I wrote "5 AM Blues" one day when I couldn't fall asleep because I had too many thoughts floating in my head that kept me up till 5 AM. The trumpet melody to the song was one of the thoughts in my head that was a melody. I couldn't get it out of my mind like an earworm, so I wrote it out. Swings' Starlight is reminiscing the times when I was young and living in Korea, going out to a playground and stargazing on a swing set was one of my favorite childhood memories. Everybody has a unique background and different stories they want to remember, and I hope that the music on this album will bring on a feeling of nostalgia to the listeners.

Q: What are your goals as a musician?

A: My goals as a musician are to create music that is unique to me and also be enjoyed by other listeners as well.

Q: Did you study music in school?

A: I studied music in school. I was in my high school's jazz band. I attended University of Denver - Lamont School of Music for undergraduate, and SUNY Purchase for graduate studies in jazz/.

Q: Which musicians have inspired you and how?

A: I am inspired by Brad Mehldau. I really enjoy listening to Brad Mehldau. I like his collaborative works with other musicians (Mark Guiliana, Chris Thile, Joshua Redman, and more), and also like his original compositions and arrangements. I am inspired by his storytelling in each piece of work he represents, and the sounds he creates out of the piano when he performs. Maria Schneider, Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington are also a few of my favorite musicians. When I listen to their music, they allow me to draw a picture in my mind and tell a story that somehow resonates within me. They inspire me to create music that speaks to the listeners and tells them a story.

Q: Are there any artists who influenced you to change your approach to music and how?

A: I recently attended a master class with Maria Schneider (hosted by Jazz House Kids). She mentioned that one of the things that she is really good at is "not giving up", and that is what allowed her to get where she is now. Every time I listen to her music and see her performances, It is so obvious that her love and passion for the music is what drives her. It inspires me to enjoy the creative process, and to remind me the reason I am playing and writing music. It also encourages me to trust the decisions I make in my music, and keep working on it.

More Information: https://www.eunhaso.com

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