About - Joyce Kwon
Joyce Kwon | singer, songwriter & zither player
Joyce Kwon, voicekwon, gayageum, Joyce for Thriving, Joyce for Thriving 2020, Dream of Home
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“Dream of Home” is the debut album from singer, composer and gayageum player, Joyce Kwon. Joyce’s individualized sound blends modern indie folk with traditional music of Korea and the States, while her lyrics center on her experience of growing up Asian in America and conversely, on her experience returning to Asia as an adult and being viewed as an outsider there, too.


As a young child, Joyce wished for acceptance, although she seemingly made no effort to fit in, even ceasing to speak during her first year in the States after emigrating from Korea at eight years old. She won a coveted spot at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts for classical piano, only to find out that her acceptance had been a clerical error. Told she had no business playing the keys but with nowhere else to go, Joyce was allowed to enroll as a voice major instead with the expectation that she hide in choirs. And so began her career in music.


Joyce initially moved on from the program in pursuit of other things. But with the epiphany that her unrealized talent was no deterrent in creating music, she delved into composition/improvisation and started learning to play gayageum, the 12-string traditional Korean instrument. She made the compulsory move to New York City as a jazz singer and studied at Manhattan School of Music, then embarked on a trip back to her birthplace of Seoul to continue her gayageum studies with a grant from UC Berkeley.


Having dreamt of her childhood home, a place where she would not be made to feel foreign, Joyce’s expectations were quickly tempered by the experience of being an American in Asia and the reality of family dynamics. Processing generational trauma and caught in the crossfires of cultural clashes, she started writing the songs that would comprise her album, “Dream of Home,” to console herself in a place where she felt absolutely alien.


She now knows that the dream of home can be a nightmare. It’s possible that it’s a place that never existed at all . . . Still, Joyce holds out hope that there’s space for her somewhere, if only in the collective imagination of those marginalized in their homeland, ostracized in the motherland.


With Joyce’s roots in Black American Music and Korean traditional music, her songs are folk songs for those in between, folk music of folks of the diaspora: new-American folk. Recorded in Los Angeles with old friends, each a world-class musician, “Dream of Home” is a passing down of stories as told by first- through fourth-generation Americans from Korea, Macau, Japan, Russia and beyond.


Joyce is thrilled to share these stories with you—you looking to belong, you tired of platitudes offered in the wake of loss, you stunned into silence, you wondering what it might be like to return home. This album is for you.

Photos by Gianina Ferreyra