By Holly Desrosier
Craven Community College (Craven CC) faculty member Liz Eunji Sellers recently performed during a special piano concert at Carnegie Hall, the world-renowned classical music venue in New York City.
To achieve this exclusive opportunity, Sellers performed in the Brooklyn Music Teachers’ Guild (BMTG) Intercontinental Piano Competition 2018, which comprised of two rounds, each with their own regulations, required music and prizes. The first round performances consisted of classical music by immortal composers such as Beethoven and Chopin. Sellers was selected to play for the second round as well, which required her to play the music of a limited selection of living composers.
She placed second overall in the competition and was the winner of the Peskanov Music Award for piano solo performance. The winners then performed at a special winner’s concert at Carnegie Hall on December 8. Composer Alexander Peskanov attended and Sellers had the honor of meeting him.
“It may sound silly, but I was very grateful and relieved because I’ve thought that I am starting from the beginning again as I am new in the States,” Sellers admitted. “The prizes not only gave me great happiness, but also a very meaningful message that I would never lose my dream wherever I go if I really love what I do and try my best from my heart.”
Sellers has shared her piano proficiency with the world through performances across various countries, including Switzerland, France, Italy, South Korea and the United States. In addition to playing the piano, she also plays the cello and a little bit of violin.
In August 2017, she joined the Fine Arts Department at Craven CC, where she serves as staff accompanist and plays for classes such as Show Choir and Applied Music. She also provides individual instruction for vocalists and instrumentalists.
“Craven’s music program has a solid curriculum,” she said. “The class selections we offer don’t suffer by comparison with four-year institutions, especially for music majors who are planning to transfer.”
Sellers explained that students in the program experience music in an academic way, building a firm foundation for music careers. She said students may discover the power of music and the profound way in which it relates to life, and noted the devotion of faculty members always collaborating and providing an optimal school experience for all students.
Sellers is a native of Seoul, South Korea. She began playing the piano at age three and first came to the public’s attention when she won the grand prize at the Grand Prix Seoul Music Festival at age eight. After that, her piano career took off.
“I had opportunities to expand my music studies at Fontenay-le-Comte in France for several years since I was young,” said Sellers. “It inspired me to begin traveling across Europe for music.”
She later attended the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and received a Master of Music degree in solo piano performance in 2014. She also studied collaborative music as a second major and became certified in classical improvisation.
Following a solo recital at Saint Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral Church for the 2014 Edinburgh International Festival Fringe, Sellers moved to Paris to study at the École Normale de Musique de Paris. While there, she earned an artist diploma in piano performance.
“That’s where I met my husband, who is an active Marine,” she explained. “He was serving at the American Embassy in Paris as a Marine security guard.”
In 2015, during an emotionally tumultuous period in her life, Sellers released an album called Lizblue’s. At the time, she was questioning her musical journey and the mixed cultural personality she had adapted from moving to different countries to study classical music. The album features her own paintings as the cover art and original compositions she arranged and performed.
“I figured that I can’t define who I am, but I could find an answer with my music,” she said. “So I decided to research myself using my music and art as tools in the process to find my identity, the incomplete person. The songs in Lizblue’s are composed about Scotland, Paris, Korea and my religion, which were occupying parts of my mind at the time.”
She focused on the combination of image and sound, two senses that complement each other and help portray the composer’s music more effectively to listeners. Fully immersing herself in each emotional aspect of the album enabled Sellers to metaphorically wrap herself up in her life’s incredible journey and remember it in a positive light. It was a constructive experience for her and showcased her gifts as a musician and artist. Lizblue’s is available on iTunes and as a hard copy.
That same year, Sellers performed Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra. Due to the success of her album, she was invited to be a guest on the main radio broadcast of Kukak (traditional Korean music) in Seoul as a composer. She also received an offer from Vine Entertainment but ultimately declined and chose to follow her heart. She married the man she had met in Paris, and in August 2016, they moved to Jacksonville, North Carolina.
Despite being out of the spotlight for now, she is content with her life. Working at Craven CC has helped her gain more responsibility, pushing her to expand her horizons and focus on the students and the futures she is shaping.
“I’m motivated by those young talented people that have a lot of potential, so I want to give them the best as much as I can,” said Sellers. “Also, the faculty members I work with are one of the biggest reasons that I’ve decided to join this program. We have had really great teamwork with synergy effects. I think that it is a very precious privilege to have this positive and respectable atmosphere with each other at the workplace.”
Sellers has an unmistakable passion for music and a powerful commitment to share her expertise with others. Her time spent studying around the world has imparted her with unique experiences and a musical wisdom that is unparalleled. Craven CC is honored to have such a talented faculty member in the college family.
“It is not just teaching music or playing the piano,” she said. “It is about the students’ lives, so I need to hand over the best things that I can give effectively in a short time period. They are the young generation that will lead the world; they are the future who will carry over music to the next generation.”
Anyone interested in Craven CC’s music or fine arts programs can call Chauncey Stevenson, program coordinator and music instructor, at 252-638-7357 or firstname.lastname@example.org.