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CCM Pianist Interested in Helping Others With Disabilities

Date: April 8, 2002
By: Kim Rittmeier
Phone: (513) 556-2683
Archive: Profiles

Jae-Hyouk Lee was interested in sounds and music at a very young age. When he was eight, his mother took a chance and enrolled him in piano lessons in Seoul, Korea. Lee has been blind since birth, so he learned repertoire by ear, memorized it and imitated what he heard. Jae-Hyouk Lee

"This method was difficult when the piece was complicated," Lee explained. "When I forgot a part, I needed someone to play it for me so I could remember."

Individual study was arduous. Lee moved on to the Seoul National School for the Blind and began studying with a blind pianist who knew how to read braille music. Although this is a very complex writing system for music, Lee soon learned and was able to practice independently.

Although practicing on his own is helpful, preparation is very time consuming. He memorizes the music before sitting down at a piano. When he finally touches the keys, he works on the mechanics with his professor before rehearsing the work in its entirety.

"For every five hours a sighted pianist puts into rehearsing, a blind pianist needs to rehearse three times that."

After taking lessons for six years, entering a few competitions and attending the university in Korea, he moved to the U.S. and studied at the New England Conservatory in Boston with Wha Kyung Byun. Byun inspired him and refused to treat him differently than other musicians. She pursued the same perfection with him as she did all of her students.

Now working towards his doctorate at CCM, Lee studies with William Black, professor of piano. The University of Cincinnati Disability Services Office has helped him adapt to the reading involved in his courses by supplying technology or personal assistance. Lee's wife is also dedicated to his success.

"My ultimate goal is to first become a great performer. Then I would like to develop a teaching method for blind musicians that will help reduce memorizing time. I would also like to teach college-level piano courses."

To meet other UC people, go to the profiles archive.

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