The May 2021 issue of Choral Journal is online and is a focus on international activities. This issue features an article titled “Building a Foundation: Interviews with
International Exchange Program Conducting Fellows” by T. J. Harper with Jeffery Ames, Jihoon Park, Sara Durkin, Rodrigo Faguaga, Julie Yu, and Ken Wakia. You can read it in its entirety at acda.org/choraljournal. Following is a portion from the article.
What insights have you gained about your country of residence through the ACDA International Conductors Exchange Program?
Jihoon Park: Through my interactions with the American choral conductors, I recognized how valuable and powerful Korea’s music, history, and heritage is. I firmly believe that Korean culture has the ability to bring positivity and light to the world. It is a culture that has depth, and once tapped into, my heritage can provide a non-Korean a special kind of experience. Having cultural interactions between the United States and Korea, I am certain both nations can establish meaningful musical relations.
Jeffery Ames: The country of Korea dealt with several tense occupations (Japanese, Russian, American, and a civil war). The Korean culture knows what it means to experience the joy and pain of the human experience. This can be heard in its music. It’s passionate. It’s filled with emotion. It’s filled with ecstasy. In many ways, I see and hear a correlation between the folk music of Korea and the Negro spiritual. In the same manner of some purely American music, we know how to sing and play about joy and pain. American music is passionate and filled with emotion. It’s amazing to see the connectivity from one culture to others.
Julie Yu: I remember driving by one of the largest slums in Nairobi (the largest urban slum in Africa). My host explained that there are government projects in place to provide support for these people and get them out (some websites estimate the Kibera could have 500,000 to 1 million people living there). I asked why wouldn’t people leave there if they could. He said, they have a complete social structure inside this community. Some don’t want to leave. Many have been born there, raised children, and died there.
I had a major epiphany in that moment. My privilege makes me assume that they would want to leave and are suffering so much, and my god complex makes me immediately want to help and fix. That’s what has stuck with me coming back to the States. I want to make a difference in the world, but it is not my privilege or my wealth that will help me. It is instead understanding that no matter what the circumstances of a community, they will create a social structure to survive, and it is not my job to “fi x it” but to understand it, appreciate it, and learn from it. And through relationships we share musical and artistic experiences that go both ways.
Read the full article in the May 2021 issue of Choral Journal at acda.org/choraljournal