“In the classical world, you don’t perform until the music is perfect. I learned I have to engage in the moment, that I didn’t have to be so perfect,” reflects Maureen Choi. “It was a big life lesson for me. When I was playing, I approached the violin and music more naturally, without all the pressure. I don’t have to be so perfect or totally prepared. I could pour out my years of training and do what I loved.”
Now the Madrid-based Berklee instructor and composer is heading to the US for a summer tour, hitting Baltimore, NYC, Chicago, and Detroit, among other markets this June and July.
Choi hails from a musical family: Her mother was one of very few singers from Korea to pursue operatic vocal training in Vienna. She continued giving lessons throughout Choi’s youth. “I got the vocal repertoire in my ear,” she recalls. Her father played guitar and was an avid maker of mix tapes. “There was always music on,” laughs Choi.
When Choi opted to dive deep into violin studies as a young woman, she knew what that required. The technique she acquired in the process--lush tone, thoughtful and expressive vibrato and ricochet--is everywhere in her work, whether she’s playing an original bolero or an arrangement of a Latin classic or classical piece.
Yet even as she focused intently on perfecting her classical playing, other music beckoned. She spent nights on the dancefloor, dancing to Latin music. She took a jazz string class and was entranced. “I fell in love with the improvisational aspects, and I felt this sense of liberation. I got addicted to playing jazz,” she remembers.