Wonmi Jung '16 B.M. was awarded her Bachelor’s degree in Jazz Performance this past May, an unpredictable accomplishment for someone who wasn’t even sure she liked the genre when she took her first lesson as a teenager in Korea. In fact, after graduating from high school, Wonmi headed to L.A., where she took a stab at a career in pop music. Fortunately, she remained in touch with her old voice teacher (and former Dominique Eade student) Sunny Kim, whose love of jazz proved infectious.
Wonmi was thrilled to be accepted to NEC, a home in which to explore her eclectic interests ranging from acting and musical theatre to painting and poetry. “I found a place I belong,” she explains. It’s no surprise then that Wonmi will continue her studies here, beginning in the master’s program in jazz vocal performance in the fall of 2016.
While she knew about the supremely talented music faculty at NEC, Wonmi was pleasantly surprised to learn about the impressive liberal arts offerings. An active participant in musical theater in high school, Wonmi continued to develop her acting skills in Drama Workshop during her senior year. Liberal Arts faculty Patrick Keppel remembers her performance as “outstanding and a huge highlight …” Wonmi’s acting skills are also evident in her musical performances, especially those with the Jayu Quartet, NEC’s Wild Card Honors Ensemble (2015–2016). Focusing on presenting social issues through their music, their song “Lost” tells the story of the 2014 capsizing of the Sewol Ferry, which resulted in the drowning deaths of over 300 Korean high school students. Wonmi drew on her acting and lyrical skills (honed in Ruth Lepson’s poetry workshop) to portray the tragic event through the eyes of the victims’ parents.
Wonmi is also a visual artist, and finds inspiration for her artwork in music. She rarely sits in front of an easel with a preconceived vision; she is usually inspired by a song or piece of music that evokes something visually, and approaches the canvas as she might a jazz piece – she improvises. “Music makes me paint,” says Wonmi, and the result is a breathtaking piece of artwork, usually some type of landscape. She has cultivated an impressive art portfolio over the years, which can be viewed online.
Before coming to NEC, Wonmi felt lost, unable to choose just one path to pursue."I remember seeing Wonmi's audition video," says her current studio teacher, Dominique Eade. "There was something so powerful yet calm about her presence. As much as she has grown and absorbed here at NEC, she has remained true to that centered yet adventurous self." Both the faculty and students at NEC made her feel comfortable, and Wonmi quickly saw NEC as a place that allows students to build a bridge that connects all of their passions. “There’s no manual at NEC,” she explains. “There are no rules about how to live your life or how to apply what you’re being taught. I found my calling very freely here.”