Recipient of the 2023 Avery Fisher Career Grant, Bokyung Byun enjoys a reputation as one of the most sought-after guitarists of her generation. Bokyung holds the distinction of being the first female winner of the prestigious JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition, where Falletta herself described Bokyung’s performance as "stunning, showcasing her gorgeous tone, immaculate technique, and sophisticated musicianship.” Other recent honors include the grand prize at the 2021 Guitar Foundation of America International Concert Artist Competition and the Montreal International Classical Guitar Competition
A bevy of orchestras, festivals, workshops, and guitar societies look to Byun for solo performances and masterclasses. In recent seasons, 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, Byun’s concert program often features contemporary music alongside traditional repertoire. As 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.
Bokyung’s debut recording in 2020 has been praised by Soundboard Magazine as, “a very beautiful disc…We are treated to extraordinary musicianship, technical assurance, and beauty of sound.” In 2022, American Record Guide chose her Naxos Laurate Series recording as the Critics’ Choice Album, remarking her style as “very reminiscent of Andres Segovia.”
Born in Seoul, Korea, 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.
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. Teachers and mentors include Scott Tennant, William Kanengiser, Chen Zhi, Tae-Soo Kim, and Sharon Isbin.
In 2020, Byun co-founded Guitarlab which has provided an innovative online learning platform offering cutting-edge classes designed for young professionals around the world. Bokyung is currently on the guitar faculty of University of North Texas. She is an Augustine Strings artist and plays a guitar by Dieter Mueller (2019).
"Amazing technical abilities, a powerful and luscious sound, and a profound sense of musical interpretation."
“The applause didn’t stop when the four chapters of ‘Concierto de Aranjuez’ ended. Music lovers in the capital couldn’t help but admire Bokyung Byun’s talent. Ms. Minh Ha, an audience member, said: “I’ve been a fan of Bokyung Byun for a long time, and it’s fortunate that SSO brought her to Hanoi. Her performance today did not disappoint the audience who love guitar and love Bokyung Byun.”
-Vietnam Posts, 2022
“Here is a simple fact: with artistry such as Ms. Byun’s, the state-of-the-art of guitar performance has reached a new level.”
“She showed off a thorough expressivity and impressive technical agility, seemingly without breaking a sweat...Byun went on to capture something supremely blissful, beautiful, and meaningful in this music.”
"Extraordinary, in the strict sense of the word."
-La Presse de Gray
“Bokyung’s artistry and technique break the limits of conventional classical guitar.”
-San Diego Guitar Festival
“Bokyung Byun played the Villa-Lobos concerto with confidence, passion, excellent projection and great dynamic contrast.”
-Guitar Society of Toronto
"Bokyung's confident and quite extraordinary rendition of Britten's notoriously difficult Nocturnal after John Dowland...truly brought out the depth of its many tonal colors and shading"
-Classical Guitar Magazine
"What a joy it was for all in attendance at the Knoxville Guitar Society concert...to hear Bokyung Byun play eloquently through a diverse and challenging program!"
-Knoxville Guitar Society