Dedication is key to this Mason graduate’s success

GaYoung Lee will receive her master’s degree in music at Thursday’s graduation.

Hard work pays off. George Mason University winter graduate GaYoung Lee knows that much to be true. 

Lee began playing the piano at 4 years old, taught by her mother who has a degree in piano performance. By the time she was 21, Lee said, “I was crazy about the piano.”

"I practiced all day, except for eating,” said Lee, who will receive her master’s degree in music at Thursday’s graduation. “I love to play the piano very much. It’s part of my life" 

Lee said her first year at Mason involved a lot of intense practice and studying. She sacrificed sleep to balance her studies with time for her two boys, ages 2 and 4.  

“I bought a piano that came with headphones,” Lee said. “When they slept, I practiced. Early in the morning and late at night, every day. Then I tried to focus more on my children when we were together.”

Lee is originally from Seoul, South Korea, where she earned a bachelor of music degree in piano performance before moving to the United States with her husband. Wanting to continue her education, Lee found Mason to be a great fit because of its well-regarded School of Music that features flexible programs that accommodate a school and life balance.      

Lee studied under University Distinguished Service Professor Linda Apple Monson, the director of the School of Music, who said she has watched Lee excel both musically and academically. 

“Not only does she possess a solid technique, but GaYoung also exudes a deep sensitivity in her music-making,” said Monson. “GaYoung Lee is a poet at the piano.”

"Without her love and support for me, I could have never gotten to this point,” Lee said. “She is very professional, but she's also a very personal, warm and generous person.”

Lee said the best part of her Mason experience were the opportunities to perform, which helped her become more comfortable in front of an audience.

While at Mason, she has performed in university opera productions and has accompanied several voice students. Lee was also selected as a featured piano soloist in the Mason Honors Recital, Grand Piano Celebration, and ARTS! By George.

After graduation, Lee will prepare for her audition for the School of Music’s doctoral program. 

“I want to keep playing every day,” she said.