Q+A: Iggy Jang

Summit + Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra

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Text Summit Staff

The Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra, formerly known as the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra, was founded in 1900. The symphony is the second oldest orchestra in the United States west of the Rocky Mountains. Originally housed in a clubhouse on the slopes of Punchbowl, the Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra now plays from the Neal S. Blaisdell Concert Hall in downtown Honolulu.

Born to Korean parents in Grenoble, France, Ignace “Iggy” Jang picked up the violin at the age of 5. He grew up listening to the legendary violin virtuosos of the past, nurturing respect for the individuality of their artistry and mastery of their instrument. He received the early part of his training from Professor Flora Elphège, before entering the Premier Prix as the youngest laureate of that year. Various grants from the Franco-American Commission and the French Ministry of Culture allowed him to further his studies under the tutelage of Franco Gulli at Indiana University.

Jang also discovered a love for musical genres outside the classical realm and became appreciative of the array of emotions they conveyed. The music of the Americas—ranging from the ‘60s pop tunes of Detroit to the Argentinean tangos of Piazzolla—is of special interest to him. In his playing, he strives to express a similar spectrum of feelings, while unfolding a unique color and depth of sound, for which he has seen praise in the American, European and Korean media.

An active soloist, chamber and orchestral musician, Jang is the concertmaster of the Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra (HSO), as well as a faculty member of the Music Department at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and Punahou Music School. Jang has performed with pianists Jon Nakamatsu, Jon Kimura Parker and Ralph Votapek, with violinists Hilary Hahn and Chee-Yun, with cellist Franz Helmerson and with ‘ukulele extraordinaire Jake Shimabukuro. Jang was a grand prize winner at the Rodolfo Lipizer International Violin Competition, held in Italy, where he was also the recipient of the Jury’s Special Prize for outstanding musical personality. He has also won prizes at the Lion’s Club of France Violin Competition and the Eastern Music Festival in North Carolina.

Since 2011, Jang has also served as the String Program Director of the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival, a two-week music camp for talented students, offering performing opportunities and various activities taught by renowned faculty. The festival welcomes students from around the globe in an idyllic environment conducive to higher learning.

Summit (S): How did you choose the violin?

Iggy Jang (IJ): My favorite LP when I was young was of the Bruch and Mendelssohn Violin Concertos. When my parents asked about learning an instrument, the choice was easy.

S: Do you have any performance rituals?

IJ: Anything to clear my mind and help me focus. I plan my ritual going backwards from the start of showtime, beginning with warm-up, then back to drive time, shower, eat, nap if I can.

S: What’s the best part about being an orchestral musician in the HSO?

IJ: You learn to work as a unit, but you also try to understand each individual musician.

S: What is your favorite HSO moment?

IJ: The silence you “hear” from a captive audience—the unadulterated release of emotions from Jake Shimabukuro after his concerto.

S: What is your favorite musical style?

IJ: Motown and ‘70s; some new takes on that aesthetic, like Jamiroquai.

S: Who were your major teachers?

IJ: My first teacher was Flora Elphège. She was the best. She passed away last year in my hometown of Grenoble. I was also taught by Gérard Poulet at the Paris Conservatory, and Franco Gulli at Indiana University.

S: What are your hobbies, interests and activities of choice outside of music?

IJ: I like to wake up at 4 a.m. to watch European soccer on TV. I’m on a seemingly never ending search for the perfect baguette here (or anywhere in the United States).

S: What famous figure, living or dead, would you most like to invite to dinner?

IJ: I’d like to meet the Little Prince in person. The Little Prince is a fictional character from a book of the same name, written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I really would.

S: What is your idea of a perfect day?

IJ: One that doesn’t start too late; one that involves me getting better at the violin.

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