My son Ian's previous teacher recommended that we find an advanced teacher for him, as his understanding of music theory and the basics of playing the piano had advanced to a point that he needed someone who could really develop him as an artist. He was learning difficult pieces of music and could memorize and play them, but we all knew he could increase his depth of understanding and interpreting the music.

It was clear from the beginning that Kangwoo was going to be a very different teacher than Ian had ever experienced. The lessons became so much more than just learning notes and the strictly technical aspects of the music. Ian began to think about layers of dynamics, balance between the hands, and articulation. He also has taught Ian how to feel the music — to understand what story the composer was trying to tell with his or her music; to demonstrate the emotion of the piece.

He has taught Ian how to use not only his hands but his fingers, wrist, arms and body to get different sounds from the piano. He is teaching Ian the subtleties of which part of his finger to use to create the sound the composer desired. Sometimes when Ian plays now it sounds like there are more than two hands playing — to us, it is incredible. Sometimes Kangwoo will talk with Ian about ways to bring out different musical lines (for example, his pinky might be the flute) and how that may be the part of the music that carries the story. It's difficult to capture the impact Kangwoo has had on Ian's ability to play the piano. He has helped build Ian's skills, but more importantly, he has helped increase Ian's understanding of the music and the intentions of the composers.

As Ian's artistry has increased, so has his depth of love for playing the piano. He and Kangwoo have great chemistry. Kangwoo challenges students in a positive way. His criticism is always constructive, and his passion is always evident. He has captured Ian's love of piano and helped him in so many ways to be a better musician and, using the techniques that Kangwoo has taught him, a wonderful storyteller with his hands. We feel extremely blessed to have Kangwoo as a teacher and we hope he is here for a long time to share his knowledge with Ian and other students who are willing to work and learn.

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2 / 1 / 2020

–Heatherjane Oakley

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