2019 IAC Interviews: Wan Yoon

We are just a few months away from Southern California Marimba’s 2nd International Artist Competition! Things look a lot different this time due to the pandemic, but we are looking forward to it and hope it will still be a great experience for everyone. 

While this year’s semi-finalists prepare for the 2nd round of the competition, we reached out to the winners from our first International Artist Competition. We wanted to know what they’ve been up to since we last saw them in 2019.

First up is Wan Yoon, the 1st Prize winner in the 2019 IAC Scholastic Solo Category! 

Please introduce yourself.

– I’m Wan Yoon attending Seoul National University. I love music and sports. I think I can explain myself as “energetic and passionate”.

What have you been up to since we last saw you?

– Right after finishing my journey in the US, I came back to Korea and prepared for the university. I practiced so many etudes like Goldenberg, Cirone, and Delecluse. I spent almost all of my time practicing my instruments until I finished my entrance examination. After I got into the university, I started to learn Latin percussion like congas, bongos, timbales, and cajon. Actually, I’m interested in every percussion, not only classical percussion, but also Latin or hand percussion. In my university, we don’t get lessons to learn Latin percussion, so I’m having private lessons. Well, because of COVID-19, I rarely go outside and didn’t have much chance to play in an orchestra. I think because I cannot interact with many people, the situation makes me get more interested in solo performance and other music styles like jazz. I started to find something new to learn and not just in classical things. Learning Latin percussion was first, then jazz vibraphone, and these days I started to learn jazz piano. In the university, I learn the excerpts, solo repertoire, and ensembles while I’m learning and practicing my own things in my own time. Actually, it’s not easy to learn both classical and jazz, but I’m doing it because I love it.

What kind of physical preparation do you do before playing?

– I usually do hard exercises like push-ups or pull-ups to make me exhausted. It might seem strange, but this makes me relax while I’m playing the marimba, and, well, it’s good for my health.

How did you prepare for the 2019 IAC?

– Actually, when I first got information about the IAC, I thought a lot about whether or not to participate. I thought I could go to America and possibly do well, but I finally decided to try it because I thought it would make me like the music I was playing more and inspire some changes to me. Since it is an international competition, I could interact with people from various countries and watch different performances, so I thought it would be good for me to experience these things. The experience has changed me a lot. When I was preparing for this competition, I felt for the first time that I chose a piece that I really wanted to play and express myself in. It seems that I was able to prepare much more comfortably and with more fun when practicing or trying to express myself. I arrived in the U.S. about a week before the event, but I couldn’t find a place to practice. I spent most of my time taking walks to relieve tension in my body and to make myself comfortable. At home, I went into a quiet room and did image training while looking at the score by myself. I always had the belief that if I could play the sheet music slowly and perfectly in my head from start to finish, I would be able to do it well in actual performance. Because of that, I think I was able to finish playing well during the competition without making big mistakes.

Most memorable moment at the 2019 IAC?

– I think it was the time when I was announced as the winner. The effort and hard work that I have been putting in was rewarded. I cannot forget my feelings at that time, and I also cannot forget the sound of applause and the place.

What music inspires you right now?

– These days, jazz music inspires me a lot. The sound of jazz and improvisation gives me lots of ideas and interpretations of music. I love listening to Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, and Chuck Mangione.

What is your dream for playing marimba?

– No matter when it happens, I want to compose my own marimba piece and perform it. I also want to put a lot of jazzy things into the marimba.

What’s the first thing you want to do when things are back to normal?

– I want to have a music performance and go on a trip, but the first thing I want to do is just go to the university, take classes, and make new friends. I’m having online classes these days, so I don’t have many chances to meet and talk to new people. I want to meet new friends and enjoy my university life.


Check out Wan’s recent performance of Piazzolla’s Verano Porteño!

And here is his winning performance of “Variations on Japanese Children’s Songs” during the 2019 IAC Finals Round.

To learn more about Wan’s experience at the 2019 IAC, check out this blog post.

Thank you Wan Yoon for this interview, and best of luck in your studies at Seoul National University! 🙂 


Be on the lookout for more interviews with our 2019 IAC winners in the upcoming days! 

Have you marked your calendar for the 2021 International Artist Competition? Learn more here.

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