CASEY TRIMM – Imagine beginning a class by circling up and sitting down in giant bean bag chairs next to your classmates. For the next twenty minutes or so, you close your eyes and tap along to the sounds of electronic music, a genre that you have never explored before.
This relaxed, non-traditional atmosphere can be found down at the Mulberry house in Dr. Hyekung Lee’s Computer Music class.
Lee is an associate professor in the music department here at Denison. Born in Inchon, South Korea, Lee’s passion for music began at a young age under the influence of her father, who adored Beethoven.
Both of her parents loved the arts and encouraged her to be a pianist early on.
“My path as a pianist was decided for me regardless of my other interests because that’s what Asian parents used to do back in the day,” said Lee.
After years of three hour commutes to and from a prestigious arts school in Seoul, Lee realized that she wasn’t as passionate about playing the piano anymore.
“My fingers were moving, but my heart was not in it. Technique, how fast your fingers can move, was the most important thing,” she said.
While attending YonSei University in Seoul, Lee decided to change her major to Composition because creating and arranging music seemed to be more interesting.
Following a short break after college, Lee decided to travel to the United States for graduate school. She started her studies in music and composition at the University of Texas at Austin in 1986. Thirteen years later, Lee finished her degrees in both Composition and Piano.
“It was lots of fun learning again and in a completely different way than in Seoul. I started playing the piano again and had a wonderful teacher who taught me how to really listen, rather than focus on technique, and make each note different and meaningful,” said Lee.
After receiving her PhD, she ended up in Ohio. As an Asian female composer, Lee had quite a hard time getting a permanent job. Before Denison, she taught at several different institutions in Ohio, including Oberlin Conservatory and Ohio Wesleyan University. In 2006, she came to Denison.
“Denison was the first place that I had ever felt truly welcomed. It really touched me. Denison has many wonderful things, but the best is the people. The people here care and constantly aim to become better,” Lee said.
HyeKyung’s son, Albert Younghee Lee, graduated from Denison in 2014. Throughout his college years, she could see the changes in him and how he eventually grew into the thoughtful, confident man that he is now.
Outside of teaching, Lee loves to sing karaoke, go bowling, play racquet ball and dance. She is currently working on a twenty minute long piece for the Eastern Festival Orchestra, which is set to premiere at the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, NC in July, 2018.
Lee is very content with her current life. Even though her parents were strict about her music path, she is eternally grateful because of the rewarding job that she now has.
“It is most rewarding to see my students absorb everything and apply what they’ve learned to their practice. My job is making and teaching music, which everyone loves and gets comfort from. You can’t get much better than that!” said Lee.
It is clear that students on the hill are thankful for Lee’s knowledge and enjoy the creative freedom that her classes come with.
“I was hesitant to sign up for a class like Computer Music, but I’m really glad that I did. HyeKyung has so much knowledge in her field and really cares about her students’ growth and success,” said Abhishek Henry ‘20, a biology major from India.
Lee not only cares about her craft, but values her students. Denison is lucky to have someone with such profound knowledge in the music world educate the creative minds that Denison has.