Wednesday February 22, 2012

STOCKBRIDGE -- In curating his first concert series, pianist Yeejin Yuk has picked selections ranging from Beethoven to contemporary composer Marti Epstein.

Yuk, who's played venues such as The Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, will perform six recitals in Berkshire County and in Ghent, N.Y., kicking off Sunday in Stockbridge and concluding in May. Proceeds from his concerts will support three of his handpicked, worthwhile causes.

After all, what else does a 14-year-old do for a class assignment if it isn't curating and performing a series of benefit concerts?

For his eighth-grade service-learning project at Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School in Ghent, Yuk decided to put his talents toward the greater good.

"Without the assignment, I probably wouldn't have thought to do this, but I think it's a good opportunity," Yuk said. Berkshire Music School Director Tracy Wilson said she's never had a student organize such a project.

The young man said he enjoyed the challenge of not only memorizing six piano pieces from the 20th and 21st centuries, but also the prospect of exposing more people to the style of music he's fond of playing.

"A lot of people say classical music is boring," Yuk said. "I'll admit, there is lots of boring stuff out there, but they just haven't seen the fun stuff yet."

The pieces in Yuk's recital repertoire reflect his own interpretations of composers' works.

The young pianist has a lot of experience from which to draw inspiration. Yuk has been playing piano since age 6, at his parents' encouragement, when his family lived in Los Angeles.

"I just liked it, and never stopped," said Yuk, who keeps a grand piano in his bedroom.

Yuk learned some from his older brother, who doesn't play much now, but who still drives him to his music lessons.

Yuk is a multiple time Berkshire Music School Merit Scholarship winner. He also participates in the New England Conservatory Preparatory School program and attends Point CounterPoint chamber music summer camp in Vermont. In 2010, Yeejin won first place in his age division at the Westfield Young Artists' Piano Competition. He has performed at the Colonial Theatre, as concerto soloist with the Stockbridge Sinfonia, and at other area venues.

Yuk also lives on a working farm with his family, where he helps care for goats, ponies, chickens and ducks, and has some chores. He often goes for walks along the property with the family dog "to think in my own head or just daydream." Aside from music and rural life, Yuk said he's interested in commercial aviation.

His piano teacher, Jean Stackhouse, lauded Yuk's initiative in choosing music and dedicating at least 10 hours a week to his practice. One of Yuk's current musical goals, in addition to becoming a professional concert pianist, is to play "Waldstein," also known as Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, a long, rich, polyrhythmic piece.

Yuk hopes audience members will make donations at his recitals to support the places where he studies: Berkshire Music School in Pittsfield, the Stockbridge Congregational Church Historic Property Fund, and Hawthorne Valley School.

To reach Jenn Smith:
jsmith@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6239
On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink

If you go ...

What: Yeejin Yuk presents a benefit piano concert series for Berkshire Music School, the Stockbridge Congregation Church Historic Property Fund and Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School. The event features special guest Gabriella Makuc.

When and where: Sunday at 3 p.m. at Stockbridge Congregational Church; March 6 at 11:15 a.m. at the Claire Teague Center in Great Barrington; April 2 at 7:30 p.m. at Kimball Farms in Lenox; April 14 at 3 p.m. at Berkshire Music School in Pittsfield; April 20 at 3 p.m. at Epoch Assisted Living at Melbourne in Pittsfield; and May 13 at 3 p.m. at Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School in Ghent, N.Y.

Cost: The concert at Stockbridge Congregational Church is asking a $15 donation at the door to benefit the church's Historic Property Fund. A reception will follow with Yeejin Yuk and his family.

Info: For the church concert, call (413) 298-3137; All other concerts, call (413) 442-1411.