Sharing the Gift of Music
written by crystale galindo | photos by maybe studio, zemleduch photography, ksenia zabotina, joann miller & provided by dr. young llerena
When she was five-years-old and living in Danyang, South Korea, Dr. Young Llerena heard her best friend learning to play the piano and immediately knew she wanted to do the same. She asked her parents if she could take lessons too, because playing the piano looked fun and her parents agreed. “My parents were very supportive of me wanting to learn to play the piano and allowed me to take lessons,” Llerena shared.
“I am a first-generation musician in my family and I do not think they expected me to go as far I have.” Llerena not only learned to play the piano, she far exceeded expectations in Texas, around the world, and has now come to grace the community of Midland with her beautiful gift.
“I completed my Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from Chugye University for the Arts in Seoul, South Korea in 2002 and then moved to Fort Worth when I was 24-years-old to study at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,” she said. At the Seminary, Llerena went on to graduate with a Master of Music in Church Music with a concentration in Piano Performance in 2005, and in 2009 she completed her Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano Performance. “I think it is God who has placed me where there are opportunities to be in a work setting with music,” Llerena said. “The Seminary also hired me as an adjunct professor and then as the director of the Music Academy.”
Arborlawn United Methodist Church, Fort Worth, TX
It was at the Seminary where she was able to acquire the skills and knowledge to play the organ in addition to the piano, and she was then offered the position as pianist at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth. She met her husband Erik in 2010 when his company relocated him to the U.S. from Ecuador. “He was a member of my church, and was also briefly my piano student,” Llerena shared. “We dated five months and married in 2011.”
She made Travis Avenue Baptist Church her work home for the next eight years and during that time had numerous performing experiences within the U.S. and traveling abroad. Llerena would normally perform at churches and schools inside the Christian circle; however, in January 2016 she stepped outside her comfort zone and onto the stage at Carnegie Hall in New York City. “It was very overwhelming to play at Carnegie Hall, but I saw it as an opportunity to share my music with more people and a more diverse crowd,” she shared. “I played 15 various songs by Christian composers for an hour and a half – including the intermission.”
“I am a first-generation musician in my family and I do not think they expected me to go as far I have.” - Dr. Young Llerena
Llerena said many of her Fort Worth friends from the church made the trip to New York to support her and watch her performance. “I prayed about this performance and believed that if it was God’s will that he would make it happen, and he did,” she explained. In 2017 the Llerena’s welcomed yet another opportunity in their lives, her husband was offered a new job in Midland. Erik made the move in August 2017 ahead of Young. World travels brought her to Midland one month later. “I followed my husband after I finished my tour in Indonesia,” she explained. “My close friend and former schoolmate who worked in Indonesia invited me to be a judge for a music competition and festival in Jakarta.”
Doctoral graduation with parents, brother and piano professor
During her two-week visit to Indonesia, Llerena’s friend also arranged concerts for Young to perform and workshops for her to coach students and music teachers. “I performed at various churches and schools and was able to teach workshops such as ‘The Keyboard’s Role in the Various Workshop Setting’, ‘The Uses of Rubato Piano Music from Bach to the 20th Century’. I also taught a program for about 100 music teachers where each teacher was presented with a certificate of completion following the class,” Llerena shared.
When Llerena finally made her way to Midland, she was approached with a very unexpected offer, and again, deflected to God in her prayers for guidance. “When [Rev. Steve Brooks, Senior Pastor of First Methodist Midland] reached out to me and asked if I could help them as their pianist and organist, I was not sure at first,” she shared. “I had hoped to travel more and knew the local position would keep me more grounded than I had hoped, but then I realized that the Senior Pastor reaching out to me was a calling from God to serve, so I accepted the job.”
“My friend asked me if I would play the piano for her so I am very excited to be able to play for and support her in her recital, ”she said. “I am also working on my own album that I hope to release in April of 2019. ”Llerena said this new album is a new challenge for her since she has always played someone else’s music. However, she welcomes the opportunity to not only learn something new in navigating the music programs, but also to be able to write her own songs. “Before, I was interpreting someone else’s music and now it is my own so I have to make sure it is creative and original,” she explained. “It has been a fun and challenging project.”
“All my talents come from God. Christian music is so special because someone wrote it for God, and now I am writing it for God – it is a spiritual connection – all my performances and all I do is like I am playing and teaching for God.” - Dr. Young Llerena
Llerena feels it is God who prepared her and then used all of her professors and instructors to train her along the way. She said as long as He keeps guiding her and using her to speak his word through music, she is always willing to sit behind the piano or organ to play. She affirmed, “All my talents come