Q and A with Woojin Lee

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Korean harpist Woojin Lee recently took home the top prize at the 2018 Hong Kong International Harp Competition. Her competition success (seventh prize at the USA IHC in 2016, fifth prize in the 2015 Korea International Harp Competition, and third prize in the 2012 Thailand International Harp Competition) got us wondering how she prepares and if she had any tips for harpists interested in following in her footsteps.

Congratulations on your recent win! You are obviously very experienced in harp competitions. Walk us through your training. How do you get ready for major competitions?

Once the set pieces for the major competitions are released, I make a practice plan that spans until the day of the competition. On a smaller scale, I always plan the pieces and amount of time that I have to practice one day in advance. This organized practice structure has become a habit of mine so I naturally try to complete all the goals I set for each day. Also, rather than excessively thinking about preparing for a competition, I think of it as a chance to present my music to others. This makes it easier for me to have fun whilst practicing.

How did the Hong Kong competition differ from other events you have competed in?

Whether it is a competition or a concert, I always try to not have any regrets about my performance. So, my feelings about the Hong Kong competition were not really different from others. However, there were tough times where I felt like my performance ability was stagnant and there seemed to be no progress whilst preparing for this competition.

How did you overcome this? Any lessons that you’ve taken away from the experience and hope to put into practice in the future?

Since I’m very strict on myself, I always try to put on a better performance. But now that I think of it, I’m kind of curious about what would’ve been like if I enjoyed more and had fun while preparing.  However, once again, after participating in this contest, I see that results never betray my efforts!

Once you found out that you won, how did you celebrate the results?

For me, the expression of my music and the feedback about it is more important than the result of the competition, so expecting results wasn’t my main concern. But when I saw my name on first place, I was really happy! Right after the results came out, I shared my joy with my families in Korea, friends in CNSMDP, and my professors!

What tips do you have for harpists hoping to find success when they compete?

I think winning in competitions is one of achievement of becoming a successful musician! In my opinion, expressing one’s true self in the music is key, and the results will naturally follow. If I persevere and make people come to enjoy my music, isn’t it a success as a musician?

Well said. So, what’s next for you? Where do you see yourself in a few (or more!) years?

I’m preparing for the USA competition next year. Since it is my second challenge, I will prepare it more systematically to have no regrets! See you in Bloomington!

As for the more distant future, I’d like to give back to a place where the harp is not very accessible and there aren’t many opportunities for harp masterclasses and concerts. That is my country, Korea. I want to be of a helping role to those who dream of becoming harpists in Korea.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’d just like to thank everyone who supports me and my harp journey. There are so many people I would like to thank: my teacher, Isabelle Moretti, all the harpists that greatly inspired me, everybody who supported me and expressed their liking for my music, my fellow harpists, and all the harpists I’ve met so far ever since I started playing. They are all so special to me. Thank you.

Click here to see the full list of results from the Hong Kong International Harp Competition.

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About Author

Stephanie Gustafson Amfahr is a harpist and teacher based in Houston, TX. Currently principal harpist with Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, she is also a co-founder of the Houston Youth Harp Ensemble, young artist with Da Camera of Houston and on faculty at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Twin Lake, MI. She started writing for Harp Column in September 2017.

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