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Alumna and pianist to reunite with mentor for celebratory performance


IU alumna Soojin Joo will return to Bloomington for a festive concert at 8 p.m. Nov. 21 in Auer Hall. Courtesy Photo

After recovering from 14 hours of jet lag, 2017 IU alumna and pianist Soojin Joo immediately returned to the place she can be found most often: at the bench of a piano.

“As soon as she’s tired she says ‘I need a nap’ and as soon as she wakes up we have to practice,” associate piano professor Emile Naoumoff said as Joo laughed. “She’s amazingly focused and organized and, as a teacher, I am just amazed.”

Joo was a student of Naoumoff’s for eight years, eventually receiving a doctoral degree in piano under Naoumoff’s guidance. Since her graduation, Joo kept in touch with her mentor throughout her occupational endeavors. 

During the previous year, the two planned a concert in celebration of Joo’s return to Bloomington. The performance will take place at 8 p.m. Nov. 21 in Auer Hall. 

Joo shared that the feature piece, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major, KV. 453, was always an inspirational work for her.

“While I was studying this piece, I liked it so much that I realized that I had to perform it before I died,” Joo said. “This piece is so beautiful. It’s simple, but yet it’s so elegant.”

Since Joo had arrived in Bloomington following her flight from Seoul, South Korea, she and Naoumoff had been rehearsing on the two pianos in his studio. The notes flowed under the door into the hallway for passersby to hear.

“Many people study with you, but very few, if not any, take that into account so that it becomes their own,” Naoumoff said. “All pianos are industrially made, but different pianists touch them and the music comes out in many different ways.”

Naoumoff and Joo decided on two additional pieces to perform for the Thursday evening concert: “Waltzes for One Piano, Four Hands” composed by Naoumoff himself and Milhaud’s “Scaramouche for Two Pianos.” Naoumoff will conduct the ensemble that is to accompany Joo consisting of other music students.

“As a teacher, I think it’s a very healthy goal to bring students to collaborate together,” Naoumoff said. “I created this project mainly because her Mozart piano concerto playing is stylistically the way I think it should be.”

Since her departure from the Jacobs School of Music, Joo has performed as a soloist in Paris, France and Serbia. In Seoul, where Joo is from, she congregated an ensemble of Jacobs alumnus titled “Luciole” meaning firefly in French. The group performs together regularly.

Joo explained that following a long apprenticeship, she has started to notice her teacher’s influence on the lessons she gives to her own students and was excited to be reunited with her mentor. Naoumoff smiled.

“In a musical aspect, I am playing with my mirror,” Naoumoff said.

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