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A pianist for all seasons

Southern Oregon University will feature sophomore-year piano performance major Joseph Yungen in a benefit concert. The event is scheduled for 8 p.m. Monday, May 12, at the Southern Oregon University Music Recital Hall, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.

The concert will help raise money for the keyboard studies at SOU so that students can travel to competitions or the program can bring a great performer to the Valley.

"Joseph is rapidly becoming a piano sensation in the region," said his teacher at SOU, pianist Alexander Tutunov. "People know him as an accompanist, performer, a somebody whose name gets passed around as a rising star. I tend to agree with the general public, Joseph is an impressive talent."

In two weeks, Yungen will be traveling to China for 10 days to take part at the Chinese American International Piano Institute held in Chengdu, Sichuan. He was chosen as one of a dozen young and upcoming American talents to be a part of this event.

Two of last year's Institute winners played a concert at the Craterian just two months ago as a part of the Chinese New Year celebration.

"Generally, our music performance majors are required to play a junior and a senior recital," said Tutunov. "But what should we do if a sophomore has prepared a huge list of repertoire? We let him play a recital. And why not make it a fundraiser while we're at it?"

The particular pieces Yungen will be performing he selected because: "I love them and believe that they should be heard." The program reflects most of the standard styles in classical piano repertoire and contains a healthy balance of audience favorites with lesser known works. Selections include music from the early 18th to the early 20th century.

The first half features music of Austro-German composers Johann Sebastian Bach, "Toccata;" Ludwig van Beethoven "Tempest;" and Franz Schubert, Sonata in a-minor, Opus 143.

The second half features music of three late-Romantic Russian composers and fellow graduates of the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory: Nicolas Medtner, "Fairy Tales;" Sergei Rachmaninoff, Prelude in b-minor; and Alexander Scriabin, Sonata No. 4.

Yungen began taking piano lessons at age 4. A graduate of Crater High School (2006), he served as accompanist for the Crater Jazz Choir for four years. He also played for school musicals and played trumpet in the school bands.

In November 2007 Yungen won the Young Artists' Piano Concerto Competition for his performance of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 5. As a result he had the honor of performing three solo movements of the concerto with the Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon under the direction of Cynthia Hutton in a series of three concerts.

"Having lived in small, rural communities before moving to Central Point, I enjoy the many musical opportunities the Rogue Valley has to offer," Yungen said. "Here I have been fortunate to find many opportunities for solo performance, accompaniment, and chamber music, as there are many talented musicians in the valley to work with and many supportive music-lovers who provide an audience."

Yungen is a staff accompanist for the Siskiyou Singers, and accompanist for the Oregon Conservatory of Performing Arts, Siskiyou Violins, and the students of Ashland violin teacher Faina Podolnaya.

An avid supporter of contemporary composers, he is in demand as a performer of new works by local composers, including fellow music students at Southern Oregon University and the Southern Oregon chapter of the National Association of Composers.

He plays trumpet in Southern Oregon University's Symphonic Band and Jazz Ensemble and Yungen is a recipient of the Chamber Music Concerts scholarship.

"While piano is my main medium of music-making and primary focus when it comes to pursuing a career as a soloist, I enjoy exploring many other musical realms," Yungen said. "I have a deep love for symphonic repertoire, a fascination with "modern" music of the last century, an interest in music of non-Western cultures, and an ever-growing love for opera. I am also fond of chamber music, which I play with some of my friends whenever I get the chance — 'for fun.' My (many) favorite composers include Mahler, R. Strauss, Schoenberg, Ives, Prokofiev, Bartók, Alkan, and Per N7/8rgård."

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. Tickets will be available at the box office just prior to the concert or in advance by calling 552-6101.

Joseph Yungen, sophomore piano studentat SOU, will perform a benefit concert of solo piano pieces. - Bryon DeVore Photography.