Pianist to perform with Maryland Symphony Orchestra

February 16, 2000

By MEG H. PARTINGTON / Staff Writer

While there are so many variables involved in playing with orchestras all over the world, pianist Seung-Un Ha says the language of music is a unifying force.

Each performance features a different piano, a different conductor and a different group of musicians.

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"Every musical experience is unique," says Ha, whose first name is pronounced Suhng-oon. "When you make music, people do come together. It's a joy and kind of indescribable feeling."

Ha likes to spend two or three hours alone playing the piano on which she will perform to get a feel for its nuances.


"Each piano is different. It has a character of its own. You just have to adjust very quickly," she says, adding that she is thankful the key size is regulated.

Maryland Symphony Orchestra, featuring pianist Seung-Un Ha; program includes Hrold's Zampa Overture, Saint-Sans' Piano Concerto No. 4 and Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique"

Saturday, Feb. 19, 8 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 20, 3 p.m.; Prelude at 7 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday

The Maryland Theatre

21 S. Potomac St.


Tickets cost $12, $20, $28 and $40; children and full-time students receive a 50-percent discount.

Ha will perform with Maryland Symphony Orchestra Saturday, Feb. 19, and Sunday, Feb. 20, at The Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown. The weekend performances will reunite Ha and MSO Music Director Elizabeth Schulze, under whose baton Ha played in Iowa and Wisconsin.

"She's a wonderful conductor. She's very inspiring," Ha says.

Ha's first musical inspiration came from a childhood friend in her native Korea.

When she was 3, she had a 6-year-old playmate who lived near her grandmother's house. On some afternoons, her friend spent time with another companion, one with keys of ebony and ivory.

Ha asked her mother if she, too, could take piano lessons, something she said was in her family's plan for her. Her mother declined, though, because she thought her daughter was too young.

So she begged for support from her grandmother, who enrolled her in lessons without her parents' knowledge.

"I took to it immediately. It was a fun activity," says Ha in a telephone interview from Thousand Oaks, Calif., where she and her husband, David DeTalo, have lived for six months.

She learned to read music right away. Translating symbols into sounds came naturally, too.

"It made sense to me," she says.

At age 7, Ha won Seoul's National Youth Piano Competition. At 10, she and her family came to Southern California.

Her U.S. orchestral debut was at age 13 with Santa Barbara Symphony, an experience she remembers fondly.

"I thought it was so exciting," says Ha, 34. She played Concerto No. 2 by Camille Saint-Sans, whose Piano Concerto No. 4 in C Minor, Op. 44, she will play with MSO.

Another composer whose works Ha has played frequently is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Among the festivals she has participated in are New York's "Mostly Mozart" and San Francisco's "Midsummer Mozart."

"I do have a close affinity for Mozart," Ha says. Each of his piano concerti is "like a jewel," she says, adding that she will perform his Concerto No. 25 in C Major with National Symphony of Taiwan in three weeks.

Ha's 15 concerts a year take her to locales all around the globe.

Eight months ago, she was in Mexico City, and, in January, she played in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater in Florida.

"It takes me to faraway places," Ha says of her career.

Making a living in the musical arena can be difficult, but Ha says she has not faced any major roadblocks.

"It's a very personal decision which is full of sacrifices," says Ha, who studied at Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, then graduated from Peabody Conservatory and The Juilliard School. "It's extremely challenging, and it's extremely rewarding.

"If you love what you're doing, that really translates into something special for yourself, and hopefully other people will respond to that," Ha says. "I always wanted to be a pianist. I never questioned it."

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