Sunghee Choi, Chicago Symphony Orchestra Violist
Sunghee Choi joined the viola section of the CSO in October of 2015. We asked her to tell us about herself and her path to joining the CSO.
"I was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea. I started playing the violin at the age of nine. I played the violin for most of my life until I switched to the viola six years ago. I attended Seoul National University for my bachelor's degree and I moved to the U.S. afterwards to continue pursuing my dream of a music career. I received my MM from New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and enrolled at Rutgers University for my DMA. During my doctoral studies with Arnold Steinhardt, my teacher suggested that I try the viola, since I've always had a rich and deep sound. I immediately fell in love with it. During my third year at Rutgers, I decided to officially switch to the viola and study with Choong-jin Chang, the principal violist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. I am grateful to have finally found the perfect instrument for me. I was lucky to have worked with some of the best teachers in the world.
After concentrating on the viola for a year, I joined the viola section of the Grant Park Festival Orchestra and also started subbing with the New York Philharmonic. In 2012, I began to sub for the Philadelphia Orchestra, and in 2013, I joined the viola section of the Lyric Opera of Chicago. At that time, I also subbed with Philly during the off seasons. Last fall, I finally won my dream job and joined the viola section of the CSO!
I love both symphonic and operatic works. It's impossible to compare Mahler’s symphonies to Puccini's operas. As a performer, I enjoy playing symphonies on stage, but dressing up and going to watch an opera has always been one of my favorite things to do.
The January 2016 tour was particularly special and emotional for me because our last stop was my hometown, Seoul, where my family was in the audience. The love and support that they have given me all these years is invaluable, and I would not be here today without them. The fact that they were able to watch me perform with the CSO is something I will never forget. They loved the first concert so much that they immediately bought tickets for the following night! It was a special treat for them, but also for me as well.
On my iPod, I have so many recordings of the CSO. I grew up listening to them all the time since I was little. It is difficult to put into words how grateful I am to be here and how honored I am to perform with Maestro Muti. Working with him is truly my dream come true.”