Student Spotlight: DSO member Joanne Hyun ’17

by Katherine Schreiber | 10/20/15 6:01pm

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DSO member Joanne Hyun ’17 has been playing the violin since she was four.
by Paula Mendoza / Paula Mendoza/ The Dartmouth Staff

Joanne Hyun ’17 picked up her first violin when she was four years old and has been playing ever since. Originally from Sydney, Australia, Hyun moved to the United States during her sophomore year of high school to attend a boarding school in Troy, New York. Although she found that there were fewer opportunities to take music lessons in high school, she also enjoyed having chance to play more independently.

Hyun joined the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra during her freshman fall. Although she has only been playing with the DSO for two years, Hyun’s skill and positivity have already made her a leader in the orchestra. This year, Hyun is the section leader of the second violins.

In addition to holding full-orchestra rehearsals twice a week, the DSO holds student-led rehearsals for specific sections every Sunday. As the section leader, Hyun leads the sectional rehearsal for second violins.

“I was really worried about it at first because I’d never led a sectional before,” she said, “but it’s a lot of fun — everyone’s very cooperative.”

Sectionals provide the second violins with a chance to address specific technical and stylistic issues of a piece.

“It’s a series of discussions,” Hyun said. “We go over the technical difficulties, as well as discussing how we should portray something musically.”

She said that she tries to make the rehearsal environment as welcoming and noncompetitive as possible. “My approach to sectionals is to encourage everyone to practice individually, instead of forcing people to practice on the spot, or pressuring them, or making them feel targeted or intimidated,” she said.

Another challenge of leading sectionals, Hyun said, is making sure players feel like they are part of the larger orchestra.

“I want people to feel like they’re part of a team. It’s not just second violins versus first violins — we’re all working together,” she said.

Alice Wang ’16, who has been playing with Hyun for two years, said that Hyun brings diligence and humor to the rehearsals.

“She does a really good job of keeping us on task and simultaneously keeping it enjoyable,” she said.

Wang said that on Sunday, none of the male second violinists were able to make it to rehearsal.

“We were joking that we had an only-female section, and she made it fun even though most of us would rather have been doing homework. She made us laugh a couple times,” Wang said.

Wang said that leading a group of peers could be difficult, especially because some of the members are older than Hyun. She said that people look up to Hyun, however, in part because of her talent as a violinist.

Hyun’s skill has earned her widespread respect in the orchestra.

“She’s such a capable player,” Wang said. “She’s known in the orchestra for having impeccable tone — whoever’s seated next to her tends to be in awe of how perfect she is all the time. But it’s also very understated because she’s a very modest person.”

Ellen Kim ’17, who has been playing with Hyun since their freshman fall and who roomed with her on the DSO’s winter trip to Europe, said that Hyun is humble despite being extremely talented. She said that Hyun has a special ability to find narratives within the music she plays.

“She can hear all sorts of stories within the music and then share them with other people,” she said.

Hyun, who said she is interested in all classical music, especially loves baroque and romantic music. She said that one of her favorite pieces she has played is Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony No. 6,” which the DSO performed last winter.

“I had never played a piece by him before, so that was really fun,” Hyun said.

Hyun said that she appreciates the diversity of the orchestra.

“The best part of the DSO is the wide range of people we have there,” she said. “We’re all interested in classical music, but you’d be surprised by how different people are. A lot of the student population is represented in mini-populations in the DSO. We have a lot of athletes, a lot of pre-meds.”

A government major, Hyun is also on the pre-med track and hopes to attend medical school after graduation. She does not know if she will be able to pursue music after Dartmouth, but hopes to find some artistic outlet, possibly in an amateur orchestra.

She said she is uncertain if other medical students will share her passion.

“I don’t know if it’s what everyone else wants in a medical community,” she said.

Hyun originally considered majoring in one of the “hard sciences” like biology or chemistry, but became interested in the social sciences after taking some government and sociology classes. While she does not see a clear connection between music and her academic studies, Hyun said that playing in the DSO provides a break from the stress of academics.

“It’s nice to know that I have something else to resort to outside of classes,” she said. “It’s a good distraction — it gives me an excuse not to go to the library.”

She added that because the College can be stressful at times, playing in the DSO comes as a welcome relief.

“Music eases people up,” she said. “I personally find Dartmouth very difficul t— three classes is more than you think. To have some kind of relief in something that I’m interested in has been nice.”

Although she thinks that the environment of Australia is more laid back, Hyun, who currently lives in New Jersey, said she likes the United States and hopes to remain here after graduation.

“There are so many people here — so many opportunities,” she said.

In addition to playing with the DSO, Hyun has also taken lessons with former DSO conductor Anthony Princiotti, who resigned this summer. She is currently studying with Liesl Schoenberger Doty.