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Winter Challenge Winner: Benjy Joung
Last month, our Winter Challenge came to an end with a bang as Benjy Joung's impressive photo (below) took first place (via Facebook likes). Not only did Benjy get lots of additional entries into the drawing for a $1000 scholarship for MasterWorks 2013, but he also won this exclusive interview on our blog. Here's your chance to meet this creative cellist from Zeeland, Michigan.
Tell us about the inspiration for your piece of art in the winter challenge.
A few things contributed actually. When I first heard about the challenge, I thought, “The obvious answer is a cello sticking out of the snow.” Then, Robin (my beloved violoncello), talked some sense into me about the effects on cold, wet, and just general cruelty on cellos. Well, after my talking to, we brainstormed a bit till she came up with this brilliant idea of using a miniature of a cellist. This cellist was made of hardier stuff than Robin and I. We then set out to find the coldest, most dangerous spot for him to pose for the competition. We combined three of the elements of winter: water, snow, and ice, and made him sit by all three of them. Then (because the little fellow liked pirates) we decided to put him in a very stoic position, sitting on the edge of the ice, not quite safe on land but also not in the water. We gave him a scarf and called it a masterpiece.
When did you first attend MasterWorks?
My first year was 2011. I also attended last year and hope to come back this year.
Tell us about the most memorable experience you had at the festival.
I’m not sure what to think of this question. I hate to be the annoying one who says “The whole thing,” but it wouldn’t be far from the truth. I think several events stick out. At MasterWorks 2011, music was the highlight. We played both Scheherazade, probably the most beautiful thing I have ever been a part of producing, and Rite of Spring, of which I will never forget the feeling in my gut during last movement of that piece; I have never been so happy and terrified in the same moment. MasterWorks 2012 was more of a spiritual and social experience for me. I had a fantastic Bible study, as well as roommate, and just people in general who were huge blessings to me.
Do you have any musical goals this year?
The biggest goal for me musically right now is to, as my teacher puts it, “clean house,” sharpen technique, and obtain a little more clarity in my playing. Mostly I am preparing for college auditions.
What has the Lord been teaching you recently?
I believe I have finally understood that I can’t hide myself in music. I have had troubled times and when I’m upset, angry, sad, or disappointed I go and practice, listen to music, forget about everything, and focus on music, but when the music stops, the comfort is oftentimes gone again. I have been learning that music is not an escape; it is only a means to an escape in God.
What is the hardest thing you have learned as a musician?
Well, I guess I am still learning that “feeling” the music isn’t enough. Just because I can close my eyes and imagine a beautiful sound doesn’t mean I can make it from my cello. I am learning to focus more on technique and not get so lost in the music. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in music itself as an entity, forgetting to listen to the sounds I am actually producing.
How can we pray for you?
Haha, so much… Pray for peace and pray that I can prioritize. I am really stressed these days. Between three orchestras, four chamber groups, junior year of high school, preparing for college auditions, finding out where I am going to do those college auditions, and just a very academically, socially, and spiritually intense time right now, I sometimes forget to just stop, take a breather, and remember my purpose for all the crazy in my life.