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January 5, 1973 ~ July 29, 2023 (age 50) 50 Years Old
Talented, generous and curious, loving and kind, Dr. Hyorim Lee passed away quietly with her typical grace and dignity Saturday morning at the Lawrenceville, Ga., home she shared with her devoted husband, Chris Kiley.
Her loving parents, Seungkil Lee and Jaeyoung Hwang, were also by her side.
Dr. Lee was 50 and had endured a 3-1/2 year-long battle with acute myeloid leukemia.
Radiating goodness and tranquility, Dr. Lee had a wonderful and irreplaceable influence on the lives of her Korean and American families as well as the students she taught at Lawrenceville's Sarang Piano Studio, which she founded not long after receiving her Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano Performance at the University of Georgia in 2016.
She took her bachelor's and advance degrees Trossingen Musikhochschule in Germany, a school that specializes in both early music and music and movement, passions that flourished in the curriculum that Dr. Lee established at Sarang.
Raised by educators, Dr. Lee began her career path with piano instruction that began when she was 5. Coupling her love of playing with her love of teaching, she was taking her first steps on the road that would bring her to Sarang, but not until several international honors came her way.
A long-standing story had it that an aspiring musician once approached a famous violinist and asked "How do you get to Carnegie Hall?" to which the violinist answered, "Practice."
Incalculable hours of practice paid off for Dr. Lee, whose dizzying skills brought her to that world-renowned venue, not as a spectator but as a performer, and a champion, after she took first prize in the 2014 American Protege International Concerto Competition, held in Carnegie's intimate Weill Recital Hall.
In so doing, Dr. Lee joined Carnegie's pantheon of performers that range from Booker T. Washington and Mark Twain, to Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington, the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, Ike and Tina Turner, Led Zeppelin and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
In addition to her triumph at Carnegie, she also won the Atlanta Music Club's 2013 Graduate Piano Scholarship and was a finalist in the 2015 United States Virtuoso International Competition.
She frequently performed as a solo pianist, chamber musician and concerto soloist in major venues throughout Korea, but, individual achievements aside, Dr. Lee found her calling while imparting her skills and imbuing to her students with her passion for the piano.
In addition to individual lessons prior to and after establishing the Sarang Piano Studio, she taught at the University of Georgia's Music School in Athens, Ga., she was an accompanist at the University of Georgia’s Department of Dance, and KyongBok College and BaekSuk University in Korea.
As her generous spirit led to her success as a teacher, her insatiable intellectual curiosity led to her doctorate dissertation, “Moving from Sonatina to Sonata: Bridging the Gap with Johann Wilhelm Hässler.”
Hässler has been considered a second-tier composer, but Dr. Lee not only considered him one of history's unheralded talents and found his work fresh air and fertile ground for her students to till and cultivate, offering them a new direction from the standard school of traditional teaching.
In her dissertation she wrote: "...encountering music not found in the standard piano repertoire can be challenging. One barrier for pianists wishing to expand their repertoire can be a lack of awareness of neglected works. This barrier is strengthened by the ready availability and constant marketing of the standard piano repertoire and the scarcity of information on compositions outside the standard repertoire.
"The purpose of this study is to introduce Hässler’s Six Easy Sonatas to a wider audience of piano teachers. The Six Easy Sonatas provide excellent material for teachers searching for new repertoire and for students eager to learn something outside of the standard literature. These sonatas offer new repertoire options that encompass the transition from intermediate to advanced level in the classical era."
Her dissertation was published by Clavier Companion magazine in its November/December, 2017, edition.
She included her gratitude for her parents in its acknowledgements: "I would like to thank Dr. Richard Zimdars, Dr. Peter Jutras, Dr. Stephen Valdez, Paula Zimdars and my parents Seungkil Lee and Jaeyoung Hwang, for all their support. This would not be possible without them."
In addition to time in the studio, Dr. Lee delighted in the company of her husband, regularly enjoying northern Georgia's hiking trails on their many walks together.
In addition to Chris and her parents, she is survived by her stepchildren Madison Kiley, Jackson Kiley, Benjamin Kiley, brother Minsu Lee, Sister-in-law Sungmin Lee, Niece Sarah Lee, Nephew Joel Lee.