Spotlight On: Jin Hee Han

I became acquainted with Jin Hee Han's work through Instagram, the great connector of artists! I stumbled upon a clip of one of her pieces: Fantasia on Korean Folk Tunes performed by the Phantom Brass quartet for the Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts. Jinhee serves as Founder/Director for AWCANYC-Asian Women Composers Association NYC- where she collaborates with a variety of talented musicians. An award-winning musician  herself, I knew I wanted to learn more about what living her moment is like for her! Read more for her thoughts on success, confidence and her journey to both, below...

Q- When do you feel confident as an artist and how does a dress/outfit, lend itself to that confidence?

I am confident when my music appeals to the audience with a strong message and connects to them.  I like to dress up in my own style with my taste freely. I try to get a different outfit for every concert depending on my music, and what the message is I want to deliver to the audience. Also, I consider my outfit for where the concert venues are and whom I will meet at the concert. Usually, I prefer to wear different types of dresses with or without a jacket such as semi-suiting.

Q- What was the moment you realized you made it, or were truly living the dream you had set out to achieve?

I would say I had more than one moment in my life so far, but the most important moment as a composer was when I was accepted to Mannes College, The New School, 2013, after I earned my Master’s degree in composition in 2010.

I expected that I would continue my academic year and hoped to be accepted as a PHD or DMA fellow in a school in the US. I moved to Dallas, Texas after I got married in 2005. Somehow, as a married person and wife, my life wasn’t easy to live as a composer. Seven years in Dallas Texas was my first home in America, I was trying to fit into a new culture, a new language, and new people. In the bottom of my heart, I was desperate to write music all the time.

In 2012, I was crushed when I was denied DMA acceptance in Peabody Conservatory. My husband and I decided to move to New York where our vision was reignited. As soon as we moved to the east coast, I applied and got accepted to two schools, Rutgers as a DMA student, and Mannes as a scholarship recipient in PSD degree. I chose Mannes as I had dreamt of studying in NYC.

Q- What does this moment look like now?

To maintain strong roots as a composer; which motivates me, and is something I will pursue for my entire life as an artist. 

Q- Can you tell us about a piece you've composed?

I like to talk about one of my favorite pieces, YAYGARA for trumpet solo, which specially includes extended techniques that relate to vocalization such as speaking, mumbling, yelling, and singing into the trumpet. This piece is commissioned by trumpeter Kate Amrine for her CD project, "AS I AM".

Q- What does it mean for you to go through this work and complete it?

Writing music means a lot to me.  My favorite part of writing music is that I can be myself. It heals me, grows, educates and  inspires me in many ways.  I also believe that my composition is an interactive tool to share my beliefs and philosophies with society, wherever my works are performed. Completing a piece not only makes me feel accomplished and confident, but also becomes a private treasure, in a sense. 

Q- What are performers/composers going through that may not be glamorous but is real and at the heart of performing, choosing the career you've chosen?

I think being patient in any situation is very difficult. Taking care of my mind is so important for me as a composer. ‘Composer’ sounds fancy in a way, but it can be one of the hardest jobs... Twenty years of my life as a composer, I've needed a lot of patience.  However, I feel like I’m still in an endless race.

Q- What does feeling successful in your career look like for you?

   Honestly, when my piece is recognized in public, that may be a lifetime matter in my case. When the audiences tell me, they have a connection with my music, or my music touches people after concerts, I feel very successful. At the same time, it is complicated to say, what ‘success’ means to me in a composer’s mindset. 

Q- Have you achieved success and if so what is the next goal?

Well, the latest good news was that I have been selected as a winning composer at Nief-Norf Summer Festival , which is one of the influential new music festivals in the USA in 2018. I have two on-going short-term goals.  One is to keep organizing new music concert series; it’s been three years under AWCANYC where I’m working as a founder and director, for composers, and I hope to get my film music done.  Lastly, my long-term goal is to fund-raising for my own first CD project.

To check out more of Jin Hee's work:

Soundcloud link:

Link to Fantasia on Korean Folk Tunes:

and website:

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