Eun Chong​ Ju: The Violin Virtuoso on the Struggle and Power of Pursuing Your Dream

“Leave music as a hobby unless you love music so much that you don’t care where you play or how much you get paid.”

Eun Chong​ Ju

She’s performed with some of the world’s most famous classical musicians, including Grammy winners Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax, but it’s been a long road to success for violin virtuoso Eun Chong​ Ju.

As a little girl in South Korea, Eun knew early on that she wanted to pursue a life of music. At the age of five, she started composing music with her schoolteacher. Inspired by her violinist aunt and supported by her parents, Eun was more than destined for music — she was determined to make it happen. As the years went on, she practiced relentlessly, even traveling for five hours at a time to receive lessons from the country’s top violinists.

It was in 2008 that Eun Chong Ju had a truly life-changing moment. After graduating with honors from Chungnam National University in South Korea, she received a full scholarship from Southern Methodist University in Texas where she would eventually get her master’s in Violin Performance. 

So she packed up her bags and left everything — and everyone — she knew in her homeland and made the long journey to Texas. Through the homesickness and the language barrier, Eun persevered. After graduation, she joined the Civic Orchestra of Chicago where she performed for three years. 

In 2014, Eun returned to Texas and got married where she now lives with her husband. She’s currently an instructor and first chair violinist with Las Colinas Symphony Orchestra for the 2019-2020 seasons. She still performs around the world, taking top honors at multiple competitions including third place at the 2019 Golden Classical Music Awards, which afforded her the opportunity to perform at the Carnegie Hall in New York.

In her 30+ year career, Eun Chong Ju has performed in front of tens of thousands of audiences and has taught violin to many young musicians.

She just released her first digital album and plans to continue making music for the masses. We caught up with this virtuoso for some personal insights into her career, musical passion, and what it really takes to pursue one’s dreams.

Who or what are your musical inspirations?

Two things: Nature and other musicians. I very much appreciate and enjoy nature. When I perform, I think about the sights and the feelings I receive from nature. I also enjoy listening to other great musicians who inspire me to continue with my music. 

What’s your process like when learning a new piece of music? 

I start from listening to other available recordings of the piece. Then I add my interpretation of the music and make it my own. 

How do you juggle your personal life and your music career?

I think that’s the hardest thing for musicians. I can’t stop practicing until I am satisfied. But I need to cook for my family, teach my students, work out, etc. I usually set the timer when I practice and never think about the violin when I leave my practice room. It’s like there are two totally different people in my life.  

How would you compare music in South Korea to music in America?

America is a country with people from various countries and cultures. I can say the diversity is the most significant difference. 

Who is your favorite violinist and why? 

Hilary Hahn. I really enjoy listening to her because of her perfect technique and musicality. I can sense her strong devotion to violin in her music.  

What would you tell a young musician about the music business?

It’s a really narrow, rough road. Leave music as a hobby unless you love music so much that you don’t care where you play or how much you get paid.

What’s your first memory as a child of music? 

It was my aunt’s graduation recital when I was five. It’s the earliest impactful memory of music I have. My mother loved listening to Mozart and it’s the earliest recollection of music in my life — I loved it too. 

Who are your favorite music artists? 

Yo-Yo Ma. I had the opportunity to play with Yo-Yo Ma and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. He had a very good understanding of his music and he was humble as well. 

Eun Chong​ Ju violin

Any collaborations you’d like to explore?

I’d like to collaborate with my college friends in South Korea. When we were studying music together I felt that we had a very strong musical connection with each other. I’d like to be able to collaborate with them again soon. 

Pick one of your music pieces that’s personal and tell us a little about it.

Prokofiev Violin Concerto No 1: This piece is not sad at all, but I saw my father crying after I performed this piece in a concert. I never asked him why, but I remember this. 

Tell us about your spiritual journey as it pertains to your music?

I grew up in a God-loving family, so my music is naturally very spiritual to me. I feel I’m able to add more and more spirituality in my music as I age and mature. 

If you didn’t play classical music, would there be another genre that you would want to play?

I think I would’ve been a jazz pianist if I didn’t focus on classical violin. 

Where do you see your music going in the next five years?

In the next five years I see more recording, more concerts, and more teaching. I hope to be able to share my music with more people. 

How do you feel about women’s empowerment?

To me, there is a clear difference between men and women — but the necessity of each gender is equally important. I think all men and women should be equally empowered by each other. 

What do you do for relaxation or hobbies?

Reading, pilates, walking. I like to take a walk. My husband knows this well. He will always ask me if I want to go take a walk after an argument.

Is there any charity you’d like to be involved with?

I hope I can use my talent in many ways — music can move people’s hearts. I’d like to play and teach violin to students who do not have such opportunity in their lives. 

Learn more about Eun Chong Ju and hear her music on YouTube

Written by Mar Yvette

Mar Yvette is an on-air host, lifestyle expert, writer and editor with 10+ years of experience working with some of the world’s most recognized media companies.