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Yang gained international renown during the 2005 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, in which she was awarded the silver medal. Just 19 years old, Yang was the competition's youngest participant at the time. During the same competition, Joyce was also awarded both the Steven De Groote Memorial Award for Best Performance of Chamber Music, as well as the Beverley Taylor Smith Award for the Best Performance of a New Work.
Yang began playing piano at age four as her aunt's first piano student. At age nine, Yang went to New York with her mother and aunt to play for Yoheved Kaplinsky. At age ten she entered the Korean National Conservatory studying under Choong Mo Kang, while she also swept many awards from numerous competitions in South Korea. In 1997 Joyce moved to New York and began studying in Juilliard's pre-college division with Kaplinsky. While in New York, she attended Ward Melville High School.
During the 2007-08 season, Joyce Yang toured the United States, playing concerts with a variety of symphony orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, Albany Symphony Orchestra, Phoenix Symphony, and the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra.
Yang graduated from Juilliard with special honor, as the recipient of the 2010 Arthur Rubinstein Prize.
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