Printed on: September 21, 2012

Pulled to music

Classical pianist Alpin Hong plays local shows to celebrate his third album and fatherhood

By Christina Lords

Alpin Hong is riding high.

The classical pianist finished recording his third album last week.

If that weren't reason enough to find joy in his life, he's also celebrating the birth of his first son.

His back-to-back performances in eastern Idaho -- Thursday at the Carr Gallery in Idaho Falls and Friday, Sept. 28, at Barrus Concert Hall in Rexburg -- will articulate the tremendous transformations in his life, he said.

"(Fatherhood) has affected my playing," he said. "My approach is a lot more patient and measured. I know now I'm not in control anymore, even though you do everything you can to be.

"There's this person, and he's half you and half someone else, and he has his own soul and own mind. Life is just really about how you are able to hold on for dear life and do your best."

The Julliard School-trained artist will feature works by Felix Mendelssohn, Claude Debussy, Sergi Rachmaninoff, Modest Mussorgsky, Frederic Chopin and George Gershwin.

His stops in Idaho Falls and Rexburg are the first on his concert tour.

"I am bringing everything," he said. "I'm bringing the kitchen sink for this one. ... I want nothing less than to bring the house down."

Even after performing as a 10-year-old with a symphony in Kalamazoo, Mich., Hong said he never anticipated making music a career.

Hong quit playing to get a pre-med degree in anticipation of becoming a surgeon. During his last year of his undergraduate study, however, he was pulled back to performance.

Someone was looking over his shoulder the day he was accepted to Julliard, Hong said.

"Some of these people are genetically engineered to be pianists ... and here I am working at a skateboard store," he said. "I had hair down the middle of my back. I looked like some surfer teacher from Hawaii and it's like ... these people are going to give me a (degree) as a master of music performance?"

As soon as he started playing professionally, Hong said, the need to expose young people to music education became a fixation for him.

He regularly leads in-school workshops and clinics to demonstrate to students that classical music can be exciting.

"The striking thing to me is that we are a couple of generations removed from people who were regularly exposed to classical music in the home or church or public gatherings," he said. "There are (many) more demands on people's leisure time. There are many more kinds of things people will go see."

Hong said he's much more conversational between the songs he performs during his concerts than many other classical musicians. Providing context for the music, he said, is an important step to understanding the pieces.

"Concentrating on a song that develops for five, seven or 20 minutes is really unique," he said. "Playing classical music is as much about the silences as it is the sound. When's the last time you paid attention to the silence?"

Features writer Christina Lords can be reached at 542-6762. Comment on this story at Post Talk at

If you go

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Sept. 28

Where: Thursday's performance -- Carr Gallery in Idaho Falls.

Sept. 28's performance -- Barrus Concert Hall in the Eliza R. Snow Performing Arts Center, Brigham Young University-Idaho, Rexburg.

Tickets: $50 for Thursday's performance. Purchase tickets at; $12 for the public and $6 for BYU-Idaho students for Sept. 28's performance. Purchase tickets at or Kimball Ticket Office at 496-3170.