Hemophilia no roadblock for accomplished Korean pianist

Korean pianist Kangwoo Jin has an ambitious dream: to perform and teach piano as a career. For most individuals, the intense competition in the music world would be daunting enough, but in Jin’s case, he is faced with an extra challenge: severe hemophilia.

An accomplished player from an early age, Jin completed his Bachelor of Music degree at Hanyang University in South Korea and earned his Performer Diploma and Masters of Music at Indiana University, U.S.A. He is currently a Doctoral Candidate in Piano Performance and Pedagogy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, U.S.A.

Classical music is Kangwoo Jin’s passion, and has been an integral part of his life ever since he was a child. When he had to stay at home because of his hemophilia, classical music was what kept his spirits up and kept him optimistic. “To me, classical music sounded like an image-filled story being told,” he explains. “I often feel that the combination of harmony, melody, and rhythm is stronger than words, and it had a direct impact on my emotional growth.” He goes on to say that he has a strong desire to play the piano because he wants to share the powerful experience of music with those who need it. Thoughtfully, Jin says that this process of falling in love with classical music—combined with the challenges of hemophilia—have allowed him to discover his true self.

Kangwoo Jin has received recognition for his talent, including as winner of the Korea-Herald Newspaper competition and the Eumyoun piano competition. He also received the J. Battista Scholarship for performance excellence at Indiana University and the Collins Distinguished Fellowship for his doctoral studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Jin is also an accomplished performer and was selected as the winner of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Concerto Competition and performed the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor, Op.18 with the University of Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra.

Diagnosed at six-months old with severe hemophilia, Jin’s condition is made worse by the intensity of his piano work. He bleeds into his joints, and has permanent damage in his right elbow, left knee and left ankle. Physical tasks are challenging, and he can’t walk for more than 15 minutes because of the discomfort it causes him. For most of his life, Jin only received factor treatment for acute bleeds instead of prophylactic treatment. Now, he is able to self-administer factor injections on a weekly basis in order to better manage his condition. This more regular treatment schedule has allowed him to spend more symptom-free time practicing on the piano. “I’m always thankful that I can still play the piano and make the music I can,” said Jin. “I’m more hopeful and try to be positive.”

Jin hopes to stay in the United States when he graduates, and fully intends to realize his dream of becoming a professional pianist.

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