Praised by Classical Guitar Magazine as “confident and quite extraordinary,” Korean guitarist, Bokyung Byun enjoys a reputation as one of the most sought-after guitarists of her generation. Ms. Byun holds the distinction of being the first female winner of the prestigious JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition, where Falletta herself described Ms. Byun’s performance as "stunning, showcasing her gorgeous tone, immaculate technique, and sophisticated musicianship. She is a winner in every sense of the word.” This win is among many wherein Ms. Byun excelled in the competitive circuit, including first-prize finishes at the Frances Walton Competition, the Montreal International Classical Guitar Competition, and the Philadelphia Classical Guitar Competition. In 2016, she was named the recipient of the International Artist Fellowship awarded to outstanding artists by the University of Southern California.
A bevy of orchestras, festivals, workshops, and guitar societies look to Ms. Byun for solo performances and masterclasses. In recent seasons, Ms. Byun has performed as a soloist with orchestras, including the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Utah Symphony, West Los Angeles Symphony, New Juilliard Ensemble, the Aspen Music Festival Orchestra, among others. Her solo recital highlights include performances at the Kumho Young Artist Series, Philadelphia Guitar Festival, Aspen-Salida Concert Series, Toronto Guitar Weekend, Guitar Montréal, Ellnora | The Guitar Festival, and San Diego Guitar Festival. She was acclaimed for performing “eloquently through a diverse and challenging program,” by Michelle Fratus, president of the board of the Knoxville Guitar Society, and having “confidence, passion, excellent projection and great dynamic contrast” by Heather Morand Clark, president of the Guitar Society of Toronto.
Committed to expanding the role of a 21st-century musician, Ms. Byun’s concert program often features contemporary music alongside traditional repertoire. As Ms. Byun herself says, “it’s vital and exciting to audiences for concerts to join the new with the old. For guitar music to continue to grow, I believe that new works must actively be cultivated in programming, and it is my hope that audiences leave my performances with new experiences.” This skill at navigating both classic repertoire and fresh work has led her to co-found Sounding Board: The New Music Initiative for Guitarists and Composers. The project focuses on promoting collaborative relationships between composers and performers to create new works for guitar, and its inaugural festival in Besançon, France in 2019 has been praised as “extraordinary, in the strict sense of the word,” by La Presse de Gray in France.
Ms. Byun’s debut recording in 2020 has been praised as “a very beautiful disc. From the first notes of the “Gallarda” from Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Escarraman, we are treated to extraordinary musicianship, technical assurance, and beauty of sound” (Soundboard Magazine).
Born in Seoul, Korea, Ms. Byun began playing guitar at the age of six. At eleven, she took the stage for her first solo recital, leading to an early start in her teen years performing numerous concert tours around Korea, to enthusiastic response, including millions of views on YouTube. By her teen years, she had gained national attention for first-prize finishes in three renowned competitions: the Korea Guitar Association, the Music Association of Korea, and the Guitar Foundation of America International Youth Competition.
Ms. Byun soon moved to the United States, where she briefly studied in Los Angeles before moving to New York City, where she entered The Juilliard School at the age of sixteen. She holds Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from The Juilliard School and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Southern California. She is grateful to the masterful instruction of her pedagogues, who include Scott Tennant, William Kanengiser, Chen Zhi, Tae-soo Kim, and Sharon Isbin.