How long does an undergraduate degree take to complete? Four, five years? What about two undergraduate degrees, from two different colleges, one in Korea, and one in the US? And then, how about a masters degree? How about two masters degrees? And then, just for kicks, how about pursuing additional graduate studies? All of these at four separate colleges, of course. Seem like a lot of stuff? Too much? Well, ask Seong-Kyung Graham, the assistant director of the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra, about how she managed to do all of these things and more.Graham was born in South Korea, and grew up in Seoul, the largest city. After attending Sungshin Women’s University, where she received her first Bachelor of Music degree, she moved to the US in 1990. She then attended North Texas University, where she originally pursued a BM in Voice. But, she switched her major to choral conducting, and after graduating, attended the University of Illinois, where she pursued her doctorate in choral conducting. She then attended the University of Cincinnati for her Orchestral Conducting Masters. After being in school from 1989 to 2002, Graham still might not be done. Her second master’s degree is partially completed, but she’s not sure if she will finish it. “I might go back and take the classes required to finish my degree, but really, it doesn’t matter, unless there’s a job opening that requires that degree,” says Graham.
When asked why she decided to become a conductor, Graham replied that it was a certain teacher that inspired her. “At the University of Illinois, I met a great teacher named Don Schleicher,” she commented, adding, “He completely opened up a new world for me. It was like I was blind before, and now I could see everything. It was magical.” For Graham, it was the feeling of being artistically aware like never before, “From then on, I knew I wanted to conduct.”
In her spare time, Graham likes to listen to music. “My husband has gotten me into listening to a lot of sports on the radio,” Graham said, “but when I’m not listening to that, I am listening to either classical music or jazz. I like jazz.” When asked about the other kinds of music she listens to, Graham replied: “It really doesn’t matter, I’m eclectic. Just no country or heavy metal.”
Graham enjoys the Appleton area, and will be sad to move at the end of the year. She is looking forward to a more permanent position where she can settle down and get comfortable. “It’s too cold here, that’s really my only complaint,” says Graham. “Oh, and I haven’t had enough time to find all the good restaurants. There were a lot in Cincinnati, I miss that.” She has enjoyed her time here though, “This is my second and last year here at Lawrence, and I’ve enjoyed it very much.