A Child Prodigy Returns, all Grown Up (Almost)

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A Child Prodigy Returns, all Grown Up (Almost)

In New York City, around 3 p.m., an old woman in a wheelchair enters studio 530 at the Juilliard School, holding her student's hand. She will teach there for hours, and except for a brief break, will give lessons until late at night. Until only 10 years ago, she used to stay at the school until 2 a.m. She still eats her dinner in the studio, ordering some Chinese food from her favorite restaurant located across Broadway. She is Dorothy DeLay, a professor at the Juilliard School, who has trained many of the worlds' greatest violinists, such as Midori, Nigel Kennedy and Itzhak Perlman.

For 53 years, since she came to Juilliard in 1948, she trained hundreds of musical prodigies, including many Korean students. Sarah Chang, Kang Hyo, David Kim, Bae Ik-hwan and Catherine Cho are only a few of DeLay's Korean pupils.

The influence Ms. DeLay has had on the musical world is simply profound. She may seem like she merely lurks in the background, but she is actually the one who pulls the strings. As the first woman faculty member at the Juilliard School, Ms. DeLay has the power to make the world's most acclaimed conductors and managers move with only a word.

And she does not hesitate to stand up for her pupils or deal with their overbearing managers when she thinks they are being forced to carry too heavy a schedule. It was thus natural that such a devoted teacher won the Educator of the Year 2001 award presented by Musical America, a prestigious musical yearbook.

Yura Lee, at only 16 years old, is one of Ms. DeLay's most recent pupils. She has been called one of Ms. DeLay's most promising students since Midori or Sarah Chang. And now, she is coming to perform in Korea. The Korean-born youngster will play at LG Arts Center in Seoul on Sept. 21 and at Pusan Cultural Center on Sept. 24.

It will be Ms. Lee's first major performances in Korea, although she played for a small audience at the Kumho Gallery (only 200 seats) last December. This time, accompanied on the piano by Robert Koenig, she will present Beethoven's "Kreutzer Sonata," Ravel's "Violin Sonata," Franz Waxman's "Carmen Fantasy" and more.

Ms. Lee began playing violin at age four and then studied under Kim Nam-yun, an eminent Korean violinist. The young girl moved to America when she was 9 and started lessons with Ms. DeLay. Under the guidance of her passionate teacher, she has been training to become a master violinist.

She won the Debut Artist of the Year prize on National Public Radio's "Performance Today" awards in 1994, the year she moved to America. She was also introduced as a musical genius, together with the pianist Yevgeni Kissin and the violinists Sarah Chang and Maxim Bengerov, in a documentary by Germany's ZDF TV.

When she was only 11, she signed an exclusive contract with ICM, a major worldwide management company that also represents Issac Stern, Itzhak Perlman, Sarah Chang and Midori.

She was the youngest artist in the company's history to sign such a contract. It is noteworthy that 10 of the 16 violinists signed to ICM are students of Ms. DeLay.

Ms. Lee has performed with many prestigious orchestras as well. Last year, for instance, she made her debut at Carnegie Hall, playing with the conductor Leonard Slatkin and the National Symphony Orchestra, and performing Peter Tchaikovsky's "Violin Concerto."

For more information about the Seoul performance, visit the Web site at www.lgart.com or call 02-2005-0114 (English available).

by Lee Jang-jik

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