Grammy award-winner Enrique Iglesias called Sunny Choi’s piano playing ‘truly amazing.’ She has over thirty million YouTube views and has played in front of thousands with rave reviews. She has charted in Billboard magazine, been featured in newspaper articles in Asia, Europe and North America, and has developed a global following. Even while performing at over 200 events each year, Sunny Choi has multiple recording projects in development while her current recordings are available worldwide. I had a chance to sit down with her and discuss her various styles of performing, learning sheet music, and her favorite films. Read below for the full interview…
What started your series of original arrangements of songs by popular artists? Is this just your way of paying homage to musicians who inspire you personally?
Sunny: When I was in my last year of University I needed to decide what I wanted to do with my career. Even though I didn’t major in music, one thing I knew for sure was that I wasn’t finished with my musical journey. Creating original arrangements of popular songs allowed me to expand my musicality as well as find my own musical voice, I’ve been inspired by beautiful music from many different genres and it has truly enriched my life.
You are gaining an extreme amount of exposure on YouTube. With your video’s hitting no. 1, how is this effecting your development as a pianist and artist?
Sunny: I am very thankful that so many people enjoy listening to me play the piano. Creating original piano interpretations allows me to express my creativity and is a great learning tool when it comes to growing as an artist and developing my own music.
In your opinion how has technology, mainly YouTube in your case, changed the landscape of music education in recent years and where do you see it headed in the future?
Sunny: Social media is all about connecting with people. There are many musicians who have posted helpful tutorials online, so students all over the world are able to learn new techniques and develop their own musicianship. There are always going to be people who want to learn how to play an instrument, the Internet can give them access to a wide variety of lessons helping them fulfill their dreams.
How do you think piano music can reach newer and younger audiences?
Sunny: The piano is one of the most loved instruments globally, which is great because it is also the instrument I love the most. I speak to a lot of people at my concerts and the most common thing they talk about is their childhood memories of playing the piano or enjoying piano music growing up.
Younger people are passionate, energetic and willing to accept new ideas and ways of doing things. As more and more pianists tap into their own personal passion and creativity younger people will follow.
Did you start out learning how to read sheet music or do you mostly play by ear?
Sunny: I started taking piano lessons when I was four years old and received my Associate of The Royal Conservatory of Music Diploma a few years ago. So while I have perfect pitch, I also have a complete classical piano background and enjoy reading sheet music as well. Having an advanced ear for music allows me to expand on my classical music background, which is extremely helpful as the technique I developed over years of practice still influences my original work.
These days, it’s more important to me to take my technical knowledge and ability to play by ear and compose and develop new ideas and sounds that tell my own story and come from the heart.
Piano is not something, you wake up in the morning and boom, you’ve mastered, how did you practice, what would you say was your special technique for practicing?
Sunny: For me practicing was all about efficiency. I had a really busy childhood; I was involved in school and private lessons, not only in music, but also in a variety of areas including sports and academic areas. Whenever I could find time between my other activities I would squeeze in some practice time. Back then, whenever I was not happy with the way I played certain sections of music, I would tend to go over the passage over and over on the piano, and I know that used to annoy my family who had to put up with hearing the repetitive sound, and I want to thank them to this day for their patience with me!
Your Eminem medley is really beautiful, how did you decide which songs to include and are there any other hip hop artists you’d like to do a medley for?
Sunny: Thank you, working of that piece was a lot of fun. When it comes to choosing the songs for a medley I like to use songs that highlight turning points in an artists’ career. On my medley albums Volumes 1, 2 & 3, I’ve put together a collection of songs by artists from many genres. Some of the hip-hop artists I’ve showcased are Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Kanye West and Ludacris.
Are you a fan of any Asian films or Anime? Have any favorites you could share with us?
Sunny: The Korean film “Mother”, is my recent favorite. I love movies with a passionate storyline and although I don’t have very much free time I do try to enjoy a good film when I can.
You recently released a Wedding album! What challenges do you face recreating popular classical music for solo piano?
Sunny: With pop music the melody line is very distinct, however when it comes to classical music it is not always as clear. The melody is often shared between different instruments, sometimes it can be embedded in between the harmonies and sometimes or not exist at all.
Bringing out a clear melody line, so people who listen to my recreations can enjoy the music was my biggest challenge with my Wedding album. The second hardest challenge was taking a song written for different instruments and many musicians and making it into an arrangement for one musician with one instrument.
2011 was a big year for you. What can we expect to hear from you in 2012? Albums, videos, tour dates?
Sunny: Yes, all of the above! New music, more videos and international tour dates. It’s going to be a busy year, but in 2012 my fans will find out more about who I am as an artist, my life experiences, and what I really care about through my music. Stay tuned it’s going to be an exciting year!
Want to keep track of Sunny’s musical journey or buy her music on iTunes? Follow her cookie crumb trail below:
Sunny Choi Official Website – http://www.SunnyChoiMusic.com
Facebook Fan Page – http://www.facebook.com/SunnyChoiMusic
iTunes – http://itunes.apple.com/ca/artist/sunny-choi/id407941487
Worldwide CD Delivery – http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/SunnyChoi
App | iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Android, Desktop – http://www.mobbase.com/app/3639/