Q & A with Hyeyeon Park, pianist and Music@Menlo:Focus Curator

We are excited to share a conversation with our inaugural Music@Menlo:Focus leader, pianist Hyeyeon Park. Since Hyeyeon’s first season with Music@Menlo as an International Program performer nearly a decade ago, she has experienced Menlo in a number of different roles. Through the generous support of our donor community, Hyeyeon’s musical journey with Music@Menlo is one that has been shared by numerous other festival participants through the years. The opportunities that our young musicians receive to hone their craft and to engage with our community are unique to Music@Menlo and have resulted in countless musical leaders emanating from our own creative capital each year.

What was it like coming to Music@Menlo for the first time in 2009? Did you come to M@M with a list of goals or expectations?
I could only imagine what to expect—I had heard so many amazing things about Music@Menlo then, and I definitely came with the mindset to soak it up. What I didn’t expect is how much I learned in those short three weeks, not just about chamber music but also about how to be the best musician…how to work well with others, how to be a leader and a citizen of our community. And most importantly, I got infected with the mission of spreading and championing chamber music.

Do you have a memorable or favorite moment as an International Program performer?
I have too many favorite moments as an IP, it is hard to pick one! But I remember one thing very vividly: during our very first meeting with Wu Han, David, and Marianne with all the IPs as part of orientation, after all the information and expectations were discussed, at the end of it, Wu Han finished the meeting by saying, “Welcome to the Music@Menlo family! You are part of our family, you will meet lifelong friends, your trusted fans, your followers, and mentors.” I didn’t quite understand what she meant right then, but now I can’t find any better way to describe my Menlo experience. My very best friends and the best musicians that I know are still some of my IP colleagues, and I keep in touch with so many people from the Music@Menlo community who help support and cherish what I do.

What is it like to come back to Menlo each year as a CMI faculty member, seeing young musicians experience M@M in the same way that you did years ago?
It is a very enriching experience, because I get to learn so much from teaching them. I see them transform like I did in the past, and I see what are the best ways of affecting them, to have the most lasting impact. It is so amazing to see, year after year, hordes of young musicians being nurtured at Menlo and then beginning their own chamber music projects, concert series, and careers. We are creating a large and enduring happy family!

What has been your most memorable teaching moment as a CMI faculty member?
Every year at the end of the festival, there are tears of sadness from students who want the Music@Menlo festival to be longer than three weeks! It is just amazing to see how much all the students and faculty bond with each other in just three weeks under the umbrella of chamber music. Many students say, “I am going to work so hard this year so I can come back to Music@Menlo again next year!” Hearing that motivation and determination makes all our hard work so worth it! It is also exciting to see former YPs and IPs continue in the world of chamber music, starting their ensembles around the country and the world, continuing the tradition of our art form.

This year was your first Carte Blanche Concert at Music@Menlo. What was your experience like putting that program together with Dmitri?
It was a very humbling experience. For so many years, Dmitri and I stood in the back of Stent Family Hall observing the Carte Blanche Concerts by other artists. We saw an overarching similarity between them: the artists wanted to present a very unique program and to challenge themselves. Dmitri and I based our programming on the theme of the 2018 festival: Creative Capitals. And we combined that with featuring composers who traveled and were attracted to these great cities. We were very proud of our final program since we featured a wide variety of time periods, genres, and national flavors, all while introducing the Menlo audience to unusual works and composers. One thing we have learned at Music@Menlo is that you cannot just present works that you like or think are going to impress—you have to design a program that will also take the audience on a journey. It was a magical moment to see the people in the hall reward us with a standing ovation at the end.

We are so happy that you will be joining us again in November as the first Music@Menlo:Focus Artistic Director-in-Residence. One of the most exciting things about Focus is the idea of inviting young professional musicians or up-and-coming artistic directors to Menlo to create a multiday musical program, providing an opportunity for the next generation of chamber music leaders and performers to gain experience in the role of artistic director. Having started with us nearly ten years ago as a student, then as a main-stage performer and Chamber Music Institute faculty member, and soon to be stepping into another new role, what excites you most about Focus?
Firstly, I am beyond thrilled to contribute to Music@Menlo as the first Focus Curator-in-Residence. When David and Wu Han reached out to me and proposed this role, I was struck by how fully it fits into the vision and mission of what Music@Menlo is. My own progression from student to performer, from performer to performer/presenter has been nurtured over the years by the festival. It opens new avenues of creativity for me: on one hand to draft a cohesive and convincing program and on the other to have the opportunity to assemble an incredible cast of performers to bring it to life. I am very fortunate to be living through this process now. I am very proud of the program I put together under the theme of Shakespeare and Goethe, and I believe I have found the best musicians for each piece.

What inspired you to create a program that revolves around allusions to Shakespeare and Goethe? Did any of your prior experiences at M@M come into play when you were creating the program? Do you have a favorite Shakespearean play?
I believe it was Music@Menlo itself that pushed me to create this program. My first year at the festival was 2009, and it was the year of Mendelssohn. Back then I didn’t know how much I was affected, but today I realize that I even named our son Felix! That first festival left a lifelong impression! I still remember the performances of Mendelssohn’s magical music and the discussions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream from the Encounter Leaders and artists. I feel that in turning to programming, this was the first seed, which went back to the roots of my Menlo experience. The rest of the program fell into place around it, beginning with Shakespeare and then turning to the world of Goethe. I also love how it merges two art forms, providing for a very rich and multifaceted experience.

My first Shakespearean tragedy was King Lear, and it still remains one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. The conclusion of the story itself is rather predictable, but it presents the aspects of good and evil and also shows how a person learns from the consequences of his or her own choices. It is amazing how the subject touches on how actions speak louder than words, something we all should take to heart as we live our lives. Lastly, it calls our attention to being truthful to one’s mission and self; my favorite quote from the play is: “Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.”

Buy your tickets to the November Music@Menlo:Focus Residency online here.