Janet Sung launched her professional violin career at age 9 with her first symphony debut. In addition to performing contemporary classical music, today she shares her musical talent, knowledge and passion for violin and ensembles with students and colleagues as an associate professor and coordinator of the Strings Department and Chamber Music program in DePaul's School of Music. Read on to learn how a global musical career brought Sung to the Lincoln Park Campus.
You've had immense global success as a musician and joined DePaul in 2010. What motivates you to teach?
When I first visited DePaul years ago, I was immediately impressed by the passion and professionalism of the students and faculty alike. I knew this university would be a wonderful place to share what I had to offer.
I have had incredible mentors and teachers throughout my career. Through them, I understood the importance of sharing knowledge and experiences, not just about the violin, but with other aspects necessary to our field - building a career, auditioning, creating performance opportunities and networking.
I also found that performing and teaching tend to feed off of one another. I am constantly learning and inspired by new repertoire, re-visiting repertoire I have performed before, and collaborating with different artists from around the world. These experiences are what I love bringing into the teaching studio. I gain equal inspiration working with students. I get to help shape my students' musical growth, address or problem-solve violin technique issues and guide musical ideas, all of which is creative work and sparks new ideas in my own playing or performances.
You double majored in music and anthropology at Harvard. How do those two tie together for you?
Attending a liberal arts school was actually a bit unexpected. I graduated from high school early and anticipated I'd attend a conservatory. Instead, I decided to take a gap year to study violin full-time. After that year, I went to Harvard hoping a wide range of experiences would enhance what I do in music.
I added my study of anthropology later, as it was a field that interested me. Reflecting on that study now, I find myself approaching much of my musical interpretations with the critical thinking spirit crucial in anthropology - immersing as much as possible into the world of the composer, learning about and listening to all of the traditions passed down, understanding why and when something was written whether it is from 200 years ago or one year ago. This all colors how I connect to the work. When we have that much more of an understanding and connection to a work, we can bring much more depth to our interpretation of the music.
Do you have a favorite venue to perform at?
I've enjoyed many diverse venues, from some of the most renowned concert halls to a bluegrass music festival in the mountains of Yosemite. The ones that are often most memorable are those where I've been able to experience significant relationships with the people I meet. One vivid memory was a tour to perform with several orchestras in Russia. Only a few people spoke English, and my Russian was just as limited. But somehow we could all communicate, share stories, laugh and connect through the music, which I think is one of the greatest aspects of the art.
Construction on the new home of DePaul's School of Music is well underway. What are you excited about most?
I have not been at DePaul as long as some of my colleagues, but I know they have been waiting for this event for a long time. It's thrilling to see the construction progress week to week. I also am excited by the prospect of this new building being a center for the arts, not only for DePaul, but also for the local Lincoln Park community and the broader city of Chicago.