Wonny Song, pianist and artistic and executive director (born 6 April 1978 in Seoul, South Korea). Originally from South Korea, this Canadian pianist has received several prestigious awards and has played with many symphony orchestras around the world. Thanks to his many recordings and media presence, particularly on the radio, classical music has become accessible to and appreciated by the general public.
Education and Early Career
Wonny Song was one year old when his parents moved to Montreal. He grew up in the neighbourhood of Ahuntsic-Cartierville, where he completed grade school and part of high school in French. He began studying piano at age eight. In 1994, he received a scholarship from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he continued his studies. After returning to Montreal, he received a bachelor’s degree from the Université de Montréal in 1998. He then went on to perfect his craft alongside Anton Kuerti at the University of Toronto, as well as at the Glenn Gould Professional School under the direction of Marc Durand.
Subsequently, the University of Minnesota offered Song the first Elinor Watson Bell Piano Fellowship. He studied there under the supervision of pianist Lydia Artymiw, obtaining his doctorate in 2004. During the summer of 2002, Song was resident at the National Arts Centre’s Summer Music Institute, at the invitation of Pinchas Zukerman, and won CBC’s Galaxie Rising Star Award. His international career took off in 2005 when he debuted at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall in New York and at the Kennedy Center in Washington. He received high praise from critics and the general public alike, leading both venues to invite him back for the 2008-2009 season.
Song published his first album in 2007 (with XXI-21 Records label); it included Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exposition and Rachmaninoff’s Variations on a Theme of Corelli. In 2009, with the same label, he recorded all of Ludwig van Beethoven’s sonatas. Along with Alexandre Da Costa, he collaborated with radio host and music lover Edgar Fruitier to bring classical music to the general public (Les grands classiques d’Edgar – La musique romantique, Octave Productions, 2009). Song also worked on the musical tale Histoire de Babar et la boîte à joujoux, which Fruitier narrated (Octave Productions, 2010). He released his own versions of Franz Liszt’s Lullaby and Christmas Tree (Universal Music, 2013) and in 2014, collaborated on the album Carl Czerny: A Rediscovered Genius (Doremi Records, 2014).
In 1993, Song gave a solo recital as Canada’s musical ambassador at the World Expo in South Korea. His noteworthy performance earned him an invitation to play at the closing ceremony for the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok, in front of Thailand’s royal family. In 2005, he returned to South Korea to play in the opening concert at the Chungmu Art Hall (Seoul) with the Euro Asian Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Keum Nan-sae. In May 2006, he gave a series of concerts at Tokyo’s Nexus Hall.
Song has performed as a soloist with some 40 world-class symphony orchestras, including the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NAC) in Ottawa. He performs regularly on Europe’s biggest stages and, in 2011, toured extensively in Japan.
Aside from his concerts, Song is passionate about training a new generation of talented young pianists in Montreal. In addition to holding the positions of Associate Director of the Lambda School of Music and Fine Arts (Montreal) and Director of the School’s Artists-in-Residence Project, Song developed a unique education program with pianist Angela Chan. In 2015, he was appointed Artistic Director of the Orford Music Festival, contributing to its international profile (see Music Festivals) and becoming Executive Director in 2017. He also hosts a weekly radio show (Le tour du monde) on Radio-classique.
Prizes and Competitions (selection)
- Gold Medal at the Cincinnati International Piano Competition (World Piano Competition) (1994)
- Best Artistic Interpretation at the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal Piano Competition (1995)
- Winner of the Ludmila-Knezkova-Hussey Piano Competition in Nova Scotia (1997)
- First and Grand Prize winner of the Minnesota Orchestra’s WAMSO Competition (2001)
- Prix d’Europe, Canada (2003)
- First Prize at the Young Concert Artists International Auditions (2005)
- Young Canadian Musicians Awards (2010)