Taft Cellist Hayden Leehyun Choi ’27 Shines in International Competitions

Hayden Choi '27 is making his mark in the music world. A talented cellist, Hayden recently awards in two major international music competitions.

Hayden Choi '27 is making his mark in the music world. A talented cellist, Hayden recently earned top honors in the Seoul International Music Competition, and was among the second-place honorees in the American Protégé International Music Talent Competition. Through his performance in the American Protégé competition, Hayden also earned a chair in the winner’s recital, which takes place at the storied Carnegie Hall in December of this year. 

“I originally never thought I would ever be performing at Carnegie Hall, but to be completely honest there was a moment of ‘Oh! I’m playing at Carnegie Hall,’ after I received the news from American Protégé,” says Hayden. “Then, a few days ago, it hit me like ‘Oh! I REALLY AM playing at Carnegie Hall!” 

American Protégé offers a variety of International Music Competitions and song contests for different music genres, instruments and levels of applicants’ qualification. Hayden competed in the 2024 Strings and Piano Spring competition, which drew a record number of elite and highly competitive applicants from 22 countries, including Australia, Austria, Canada, China, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Macedonia, New Zealand, Panama, Poland, Réunion, Singapore, South Korea, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, the United States, and Vietnam. Overall, this year’s American Protégé programs at Carnegie Hall attracted a record number of applicants from more than 70 countries.

Sponsored by the Korean Professional Artists Association and the New York Institute of the Arts, The Seoul International Competition provides an open forum for music lovers worldwide, focusing on non-profit and public interest. The online competition is open to musicians of all ages, nationalities, and abilities. Competition press notes that the winners’ music “informed the world of their uniqueness, passion, and outstanding talent. They captured the judges' hearts by telling their stories on stage with music.”

For the competitions, Hayden chose to play a piece that he began working on last summer, but had not completed; this spring he was ready. 

“I played the fourth movement of [Edward] Elgar's only cello concerto, which, if I remember correctly was his last major piece,” Hayden notes.

He did, indeed, remember correctly: Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85, his last major completed work, is a cornerstone of the solo cello repertoire. Elgar composed it in the aftermath of the First World War.

“Hayden is an extremely dedicated and talented student. In just his first year, he has given so much to our Chamber Orchestra program—performing Brazilian music for the multicultural arts celebration, Beethoven’s First Symphony in Taft’s Music for a While Series, touring Nashville this past March, playing Into the Woods in a small pit off campus this past winter. He will also be among the performers playing in the upcoming side-by-side performance with the Waterbury Symphony,” says T.J. Thompson, instrumental music teacher at Taft. “It has been wonderful working with him.”

In hero image: Hayden on stage at The Kukje Art Hall in Seoul, South Korea, a venue dedicated to classical music performance and recording. 

Story body image: Hayden performing at Taft.

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