Sunny Choi hasn’t always felt comfortable expressing herself.
Sunny moved to the United States from South Korea as a kid who was unaccustomed to emotional vulnerability and self-expression. Sunny found her own voice through music, but not until she branched outside of the classical music genre.
Inspired by her own journey, Sunny started Artistic Pi, a curriculum of contemporary piano music that encourages self-expression and individuality. In our interview, Sunny describes her ambitious daily schedule (which includes recording one performance video a week!), her experiences with culture shock as a kid and her goals for the future.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Sunny Choi, a contemporary piano artist and entrepreneur based in New York City. I tell stories through my beautiful piano performances that are available and shared with millions of my music lovers on the Web. I also composed and released an original solo piano album titled “Closer” to share stories from my personal life journey of growing up as a Korean-born immigrant while attempting to find a cultural balance.
I founded a music education startup called Artistic Pi in early 2015 with a unique contemporary curriculum of learning piano that focuses on the understanding and application of piano techniques to encourage students to unleash their own musical creativity. The curriculum created by Artistic Pi significantly differs from the traditional classical music-focused way of learning the instrument that virtually allows no room for pianists to explore their own musical creativity.
What does a day in your life look like?
Each day is very different from another as I am completely in charge of things that I feel I have to accomplish in order to push my work forward. I start my day by responding to business emails and messages from my music followers. I attend meetings and events several times a week where other music educators gather to share their newest ideas on music learning and engagement tools. There is so much I learn simply from getting out there and interacting with others that share common interests in improving music learning experience. Once a week, I select a song that I feel connected to and record a new Artistic Piano Interpretation performance video at the Steinway & Sons location in Manhattan. These videos are regularly posted via my social media platforms. I end my day by writing down new goals to accomplish for the next day.
Tell us about the relationship between music and “letting go” or being honest. How are they related?
Growing up, learning to play piano with classical music felt as if I were learning how to move with music and think a certain way in order to express myself. There is something very unnatural to me about learning to express my own emotions as I felt limited and ill inspired by the idea of being relegated to a single specific genre of piano music, and always believed there was more that I could explore and other ways to enhance my creative talents.
Making music is an emotionally vulnerable experience. I wanted to tell stories through music and I believe music is a way for me to deliver these stories that capture my most honest thoughts and feelings at my best. Releasing my emotions through music has also helped me to become a more verbally expressive person, as I no longer shy away from communicating my feelings with the closest people in my life.
What was your experience like growing up in the US after moving from South Korea?
I was born in South Korea and immigrated to Canada with my family at the age of 12, then moved to New York City a year ago to further develop my career as an artist and entrepreneur. Despite my relatively outspoken personality, I was emotionally closed and felt unsettled for a long time, until I chose to let it all out through my album, Closer. The personal stories in every track behind Closer are heavily influenced by my experiences of growing up in North America as a first-generation immigrant.
Visiting friends’ homes and noticing the “I love you” phrase casually being expressed to their parents was a form of culture shock to me, as I had never said, nor heard, my family do the same. Repressing emotions is a very common thing in the Korean culture. Had I never left Korea, this album probably wouldn’t have been possible, and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to experience and learn from new cultures, and combine the best of both of my world’s.
What inspires you to write music?
I’m a storyteller who uses piano as a tool to share these stories. Certain moments in time or experiences within my life that still linger in my memory from my past are what inspire me to write music. I’m not necessarily saying that I have lots of dramatic stories to tell, but I find that much of what affects and shapes our beings is largely caused by a series of emotions that we come across from experiencing certain events in our lives.
What are your goals for the future?
My company Artistic Pi was founded to provide its very own contemporary piano learning curriculum for piano enthusiasts with various levels of training. This has been a long time coming project; since a few years ago, I started compiling my ideas and notating specific techniques that I use in my “Artistic Piano Interpretation” performances while cultivating my career as a professional musician and teacher. Piano is a beautiful instrument that is loved by people from all over the world, yet the way to learn this instrument has been typically through classical music, which is not easily approachable.
As I continue to share more of my performance videos on the Web, I am motivated by the many piano students who have expressed their frustrations over their own incapability to break out of the classical genre box, and share their personal emotions, and creative ideas through music – as most classical music allows no room for modification. Artistic Pi is currently under development, and all piano lovers that are interested in finding out more about it can sign up by visiting http://www.ArtisticPi.com.
Tell us about your experience with about.me.
Many of my music followers that come across my music for the first time are from my YouTube channel. There are other social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that I use where people may also discover my work. about.me provides a clutter-free, one-page layout for me to provide all sorts of links associated with my work, as well as to explain why I do what I do in brief. This helps as we live in a busy world, so the amount of writing on my about.me page is an ideal length for people to actually read all the way through.
*Featured photos taken by: Fanique
Anna Lizaur is a Marketing Manager with about.me. She graduated from the University of Virginia. Anna is fluent in Spanish and can count to 100 in Chinese.