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  • Writer's pictureKate Amrine

CD Interview 4: Borah and Peggy

This post is the fourth in the series of mini interviews I am doing with all of the composers and  performers featured on my upcoming CD. Find out more information about that project and how YOU can help me make it happen here:

There are also some clips from a live performance in this video so please have a listen

So far I have introduced two composers who wrote unaccompanied pieces (Nicole Piunno, Jessica Gardner), two composers who wrote pieces with electronics(Alexandra Gardner, Ariel Marx), and two performers that make up The Witches (Ledah Finck and Louna Dekker-Vargas). I am very excited to introduce the last two performers on my CD: harpist Peggy Houng and pianist Borah Han.

How did you first get into music?

Borah: My parents enrolled me into a piano school in Korea when I was about 6 years old (I know, shocker.) Even though I hardly practiced, I knew I wanted to be a concert pianist from a young age. I never thought once that I’ll stop playing the piano. Even when my first teacher used to hit the back of my hands with a ruler for not curving them correctly. When my mom forced me to quit (due to lack of practice therefore wasting her money), I begged her for months to let me take lessons again. I couldn’t be a pianist stopping lessons at age 9! She budged and years later, after studying with so many wonderful teachers (my honorary moms and dads for life), countless hours in practice rooms, being inspired by other musicians and peers, etc., I’m here in NYC living my dreams.

Peggy: I first got into music when I was in kindergarten by playing the piano. I watched my older sister start playing the piano before me and I couldn’t wait to start playing on the huge upright piano in the living room. From then on, both of us picked a second instrument when we were a couple years older. I picked the harp, and I’m still studying it to this day, earning my graduate performance diploma (GPD) in Harp Performance at Peabody.

What is new /exciting/ upcoming for you / currently working on?

Borah: Besides these beautifully layered short songs by Jennifer Higdon we will be recording (can’t wait to share our interpretation), working on being an “honorary mom” one day (see above) to all my piano students in Brooklyn and doing “weird” things inside the piano and what not (yes, extended technique!) in an unusual ensemble (voice/double bass/percussion/pre-recorded electronics/piano) at Roulette this June 22. The haunting and beautiful song cycle “I am the Beggar of the World” was composed by lovely Gemma Peacocke, set to beautiful and heartbreaking stories by Pashtun women. Check it out!

Peggy: As a first year GPD student, I am currently preparing for my first degree recital in April, as well as a couple of interesting upcoming performances. I hope to travel to attend and present two performances with colleagues at the World Harp Congress in Hong Kong.

Who are your inspiring women heroes? Musical or not, and why?

Peggy: As of recently, I have been especially inspired by my sister. As my older sister and I have approached our mid-twenties, we’ve encountered some rather challenging decisions: what to study in school, what career to pursue, and what goals to set for the next five years of our lives. While I am still seeking inspiration and aspiring to become a professional harpist of some kind, I watched as my sister tried various career paths in the span of just a couple years. I hope I can be as brave as my sister and try my hand at lots of different things, so I, too, can find my dream career.

What do you think we can do to change the music culture to be more inclusive of women and other less visibly prominent composers and performers? 

Borah: I’m not sure. Besides not treating anyone any differently because of their race, religion, gender, sexuality, and class, perhaps by checking your own mindset and actions first. Not judging others, trying to understand where everyone is coming from, going for the root of the problem, etc.

Peggy: This is an interesting question for me, as a harpist, since my field is dominated by women. Men have actually become the minority in the harp world, but that doesn’t stop them from pursuing a career in the field. There are amazing harpists, both male and female, and of all races. I think anything is possible, as long as you don’t get stuck in just one mindset. Dear minorities: go ahead and show the world what it’s missing! Don’t let what other people say get you down and fight for what you want.

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