Last October, number of people gathered at a local park to enjoy the “official concert” held by the ‘Yul Teenage Orchestra.’ The concert was a great success, even receiving encores, which is rare for an amateur orchestra. I was part of the orchestra in the flute section. This was my first official concert, different from the many “volunteering concerts” that I had participated in. The volunteering concerts are the main purpose of the Yul Teenage Orchestra-- to perform in places such as the orphanage, silver town, and hospitals. After the official concert, however, I became curious about the foundation and history of the Yul Teenage Orchestra, one of the biggest and well-known local teenage orchestras. The following is from the interview with Mi-Ae Choi, the orchestra manager of Yul Teenage Orchestra.
|[Photo of the regular concert, photo courtesy to manager Choi]|
Mi-Ae Choi first started off as the president of the Yul Music Academy. As time passed, her music academy prospered and taught many players of various types of instruments, from common ones such as the violin, flute, cello, and clarinet to rare ones such as the viola, contrabass, trumpet, and drum. It was a natural next step to bring all those instruments together and create harmony; she decided to establish a teenage orchestra of her own in 1999. “It has always been a lifelong dream for me to form an orchestra, to gather all kinds of instruments and create a field where they can all combine, making harmony,” manager Choi stated. She mentioned that for her, the orchestra was a step toward her ultimate goal. “Becoming a part of an orchestra is a goal for every instrument player. However, my goal was a bit different. I have always wanted to visit people who are culturally disadvantaged and help them also enjoy music.” Creating the Yul Teenage Orchestra thus allowed her and the students of the orchestra to share their advantage with others, bringing them orchestral music. She recruited students from her music academy and held weekly orchestra practices in her academy. It was a tough going at the beginning. Most students weren’t even familiar with orchestra terminologies. She and the conductor had to select orchestral repertoire that every member could play, considering the varying degree of capability of each player. Finding places to perform was also difficult, since not every center welcomed a new, amateur orchestra with no experience. “I just had to stay hopeful and stay ready so that I could grab the chance when it came to me and my orchestra,” she said. As time went by, the orchestra was finally able to hold their first volunteering concert at a small orphanage. “Every member of the orchestra, of course including myself, was so excited and nervous before the concert,” she recalled. “However, the students performed so well during the concert that the orphanage wanted us to regularly visit their place to perform.” This one concert lead to series of volunteering concerts at places such as other orphanages, hospitals, silver towns, and rehabilitation centers. Now that she could regularly perform at different places, it seemed like she had achieved her goal. Then, she encountered another challenge.
|[Photo of myself interviewing manager Choi, photo courtesy to myself]|
It all started from the volunteering concert that was held in an orphanage for disabled children. “There was a girl who always sat in the first row, enjoying the orchestra music more than any other kid there,” manager Choi started off. After the concert, that girl’s mother, who took care of her in the institution, came up to the manager and asked if the girl could learn how to conduct. Like every other orchestra, the Yul Teenage Orchestra had a conductor who guides the whole orchestra. It seemed like the little girl was in love with the conductor’s role, controlling and leading every instrument with charisma and precision. With the help of the conductor, manager Choi, and her mother, the young girl was able to learn the conducting gestures. “On the second volunteering concert at the same place, she performed a piece conducting our orchestra as a guest conductor. It was a touching and magnificent moment for all of us,” said manager Choi, looking back at the moment. After this volunteering concert, she set a new goal for herself: she wanted to create an opportunity where the audience and performers could interact with music as the medium.
|[Photo of the volunteering concert at the orphanage for disabled, photo courtesy to manager Choi]|
The manager immediately went to work to up with different ways to interact with the audience. “The orchestra prepared a popular k-pop song in the program, drawing the audience to sing and clap along to the song,” manager Choi added. One memorable experience was a collaboration with an orphanage. “After one volunteering concert, the head of the orphanage came up to me and asked if they could have a collaboration with our orchestra. He explained how there were some students in their orphanage who can play the marimba, a unique instrument,” she explained. It was a pleasant surprise, and she agreed heartily. After weeks of practice, the orphanage marimba players and Yul Teenage Orchestra performed together in the Yul regular concert of 2013. “It was one of the proudest moments for me, as an orchestra manager, to watch the fascinating interaction between two groups of players,” manager Choi recounted.
Another dream of manager Choi was to perform outdoors. “Performing indoors and outdoors is different: usually the latter creates a more lighthearted ambiance for both the performer and the audience. It can also effectively deliver each instrument’s own sound since there are no cement barriers that limit the vibration and sound,” manager Choi explained. This dream finally came true this October when she held the regular concert in a local park. “The weather was so great and there were lots of people who came to listen to our music. Every time I hold a regular concert, it motivates me to devote everything I have into managing the orchestra,” she described.
|[Photo of the regular concert poster, photo courtesy to myself]|
Throughout the interview, manager Choi’s conviction on the power of music were palpable. Manager Choi defined a teenage orchestra as a virtuous cycle, “The students learn the power of music while they practice and perform. After the performance, the audience also feels the power of music and become interested in orchestral music. These people now join the orchestra, spreading the positive energy of music to even more people,” manager Choi explained. She is expecting more music professionals to establish teenager orchestras and more students players to search for such orchestras around where they live, so that they can also become a part of the virtuous cycle.
Moonyoung (Rosy) Bang
Sophomore (Grade 10)
Gangnam International School
Moonyoung (Rosy) Bang firstname.lastname@example.org
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