Yonsei Academy students win 5 gold, 3 silver medals at TBMF


The award-winning delegation of Yonsei Academy made a triumphant return to the Tumon Bay Music Festival in Guam this year. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Yonsei Academy students made a triumphant return to the Tumon Bay Music Festival in Guam this year by winning five gold and three silver medals at what is billed as the largest music festival in the region.

The Saipan-based academy fielded eight students to this year’s festival and all eight students passed the initial auditions and made it to the finals. The Yonsei delegation consisted of Jennifer Woo, 15 years old, Marianas High School; Olivia Hwang, 17, Saipan International School; Seiyul Hong, 16, MHS; Abbie Kim, 14, MHS; Jireh Wang, 16, Agape Christian School; Chealza Navarro, (15, Mount Carmel School; Eric Lai, 17, Grace Christian Academy; and Peter Peng, 15, ACS.

Finally returning last March 2 to 11, 2023, after being put on hold for three years due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Tumon Bay Music Festival is the largest music festival to be held in Guam annually and draws musicians from various places such as Saipan, Guam, and Japan.

There are divisions of choir, solo, ensemble, jazz, band, and orchestra and all participants play together, regardless of genre, age, and ethnicity.

Since this year’s competition was the first in three years, there were far more participants, which means the organizers had to eliminate some participants through audition. All of Yonsei Academy students made it to the finals. On March 4, 2023, 18 finalists participated in the competition at Micronesia Mall, Guam.

Some of the winning students of Yonsei Academy are presented their awards after performing at the Micronesia Mall as part of the Tumon Bay Music Festival in Guam. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS)

“…My [students] have grown while the competition has not been held due to COVID for three years. However, unlike before, the situation where [they] had to go through auditions made me nervous. But I could expect good results because I trusted my students and knew how hard they had been practicing. …We made it. …I believed in my students,” said Jihye Yun, director of Yonsei Academy.

Eight Yonsei Academy students won five gold medals and three silver medals. In particular, five of the seven gold medals for the entire piano session were won by Yonsei Academy students.

One of the gold medalists, Olivia Hwang, thanked the judges and coordinators who recognized her efforts. “I’d also like to thank my parents, Mrs. Yun, Dr. Ron, Ms. Milli, and Ms. Melisha for their help throughout this process. It took almost a year for me to hold a gold medal in the ceremony and feel proud of myself. Your faith has been a source of inspiration and encouragement for me, and I want to thank everyone for providing me with this opportunity. Thank you and I will be striving to achieve another gold medal for TBMF 2024!”

Navarro, who was a first-time gold medalist in the competition, said, “TBMF 2023 was a great experience for me, especially as someone who only started playing piano a few years ago. I wasn’t expecting to receive gold, but I’m proud I was able to pull it off. I was really nervous before the performance, so I had to practice the piece many times in my head. With that, I am very grateful to my family, friends, and teacher for helping me throughout the competition.”

Abbie Kim, who won a gold medal at the 2020 TBMF and won another gold this year, said, “I am glad that I was able to get a gold medal [in this year’s Tumon Bay Music Festival]. Before the performance, I was really nervous because I thought I didn’t have enough practice. Also I heard that this year’s music festival was [stricter] than the last time. So, I didn’t have a lot of confidence. Since the last time I got a gold medal [was when I was a 6th grader], I felt like I had to get a gold this time too or else I would be disappointed and upset. …After a long period of anxiousness, when they finally announced my gold medal, I was really glad and relieved. However, even though I got a gold medal, I think I should be humble and still practice a lot. I enjoyed this year’s Tumon Bay Music Festival because of the final results and the beautiful music I was able to perform. I hope I can keep up my streak of gold medals in the future. Also, I will improve my piano techniques so that I can make my academy, Yonsei Piano, and my teacher, Jihye Yun, seen positively by many people.” (PR/Saipan Tribune)

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