Bokyung Byun

It has been over a month since our 2019 edition, and we can say that Opening Night with Bokyung Byun was a success! This year we presented all our concerts at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park, which is a great place to be at any time of the year, especially in the spring during cherry blossom season.

Located in downtown San Diego, Balboa Park is home to many cultural and scientific institutions, including the San Diego Zoo and the Japanese Friendship Garden. The Inamori Pavilion at the JFG was designed as a multi-purpose facility based on traditional Japanese architecture and aesthetics, but we found out that it is also an amazing venue for guitar concerts!

Bokyung’s tone was loud, articulate, and really filled the room with sound. Of course, the Inamori Pavilion has great acoustics, but when paired with a guitar by German luthier, Dieter Müller, and her go-to strings, Augustin Regal Blue (“the purples”), Bokyung’s artistry and technique break the limits of conventional classical guitar.

Her program consisted of traditional repertoire from composers Giulio Regondi, Federico Moreno Torroba, and John Dowland, but also alternating with more modern music from Hans Haug, Roberto Sierra, and John Williams. Yes- THE John Williams of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Harry Potter movies.

According to Bokyung, her theory is that Williams’ guitar piece is titled “Rounds” as a play on words. This work was written as the set piece for a past Parkening International Guitar Competition, in which competitors go through “rounds”. Bokyung herself will be going through these “rounds” as a 2019 competitor.

What also makes Bokyung special is her ability to engage the audience. She has a very relaxed and casual stage presence, and always has something fun and meaningful to say before each piece. Her easy-going personality also translates through her teaching. Four out of five masterclass participants had never performed in a masterclass- usually this means students are too nervous to play, but not at Bokyung’s masterclass! She was able to communicate effectively, and all students made the best out of her teachings and expertise.

After the concert, our friends from Tau Beta Sigma Zeta Xi at SDSU provided a reception to conclude our first concert of 2019. Although Bokyung’s visit seemed really short, we had to take her to one of San Diego’s best craft cocktail bars, Polite Provisions. As part of the Augustine Family of Artists, Augustine Strings helped us celebrate Bokyung’s contributions as a woman in the guitar world!

We can’t wait to see what projects Bokyung has coming up in her career as a concert artist, but we do know she is working on her debut CD which will include a new piece written and dedicated to her by Korean composer, Nicky Sohn, based on a South Korean folksong from Bokyung’s hometown.

Bokyung says, “Music, and in particular guitar playing, has given me a home when my home was miles away. This new work directly represents my musical vision: it will enrich the literature of guitar music and celebrate the place where I grew up, which holds deep importance in my heart.”

Photo credit: Glorissa Rodriguez