The entire world is currently captivated by young South Korean musicians. Music once only enjoyed by a select group, a genre that originated in a land far away from our country is finally transforming, as young artists in South Korea are going through a meteoric rise in the classical realm. Behind this resplendent appearance of these successful musicians exist thousands of young artists that endure long preparation behind the scenes to grasp a slim chance to perform on the main stage.
In recent years, many young artists from South Korea seized the world by showing unprecedented work on the stage of world-renowned competitions. Son Yeol Eum is definitely one of the leading, unrivalled pianists that contributed to the recent increase of interest in classical music in South Korea. In 2011, Son won second place in a world-renowned “International Tchaikovsky Competition.” This subliminal achievement along with her unique music style and perfect technique, soon established her to become a world prominent artist.
The work of young artists in Korea expands to other fields of classical music. Kwun Hyuk- Joo, a successful violinist in South Korea, won first prize at the International Violin Competition “Carl Nielsen” and also won first prize in the 2005 “Moscow's Paganini Competition.” He became one of the youngest professors at Anyang University at the age of 26.
▲ Son Yeol Eum is considered one to the most successful young classical artists not only inKorea but also in the World Provided By newsis.
These successful artists, however, only represent the tip of an iceberg. Behind the shining stage of these young artists exists tens of thousands of young artists that practices for hours in a room alone, hoping that one day they would be able to become part of the main stream performance. Some successful South Korean artists may seem to be living a luxurious life on the surface—being settled and walking on a polished path. However, they also had to face insurmountable ordeals in their music career.
Starting from a young age, musicians’ lives deviate from the norm. Musicians have to decide their career starting from a young age. They have to get private lessons from professors and attend special music schools. The time spent with friends at the playground is substituted with tedious practice hours alone in the room. They enter fierce competitions where all friends are rivals.
In order to focus solely on music, some even decide to quit school. “I withdrew from school while I was attending my second year of middle school. I had to exchange ordinary life and experiencing other fields of studies for violin,” says Jung Ye-Song (32, School of Art and Music). Although such decision gave her more practice hours, it certainly took away her childhood experience as a typical and ordinary student in South Korea.
If they do decide to attend ordinary school instead of a music school, they have a hard time adapting to the school. They would have no time to be with their friends or to do homework, since their priority would be practicing after school. Some students decide to give up music after realizing that they have to give up so many factors.
Even with the appropriate talent and a firm will, some people with obvious talent give up music due to financial costs. It takes tremendous amount of money to get private lessons from professors every week and attend private music schools. Although it may vary, an average fee for a one hour lesson is about three hundred thousand won.
“Affording expensive instruments and paying for lessons are no easy task. I also found it extremely difficult to pay all the financial fees” said Jung. The problem is that these financial abilities are related directly to one’s improvement. A better quality of sound could be made from better instruments, and being taught by famous professors often lead to more success in the future.
The sacrifices and overcoming of all these financial difficulties, does not secure a place for musicians to become professional music soloists. Classical music is still relatively unpopular among the majority of citizens. Only a few people buy tickets to watch a classical concert when compared to more trendy music such as pop music or rock music. “The demand for classical music is low, and it requires more competition to become a soloist. It is also never a stable job,” said Jung. Therefore, only a few select people can become professional musicians.
After facing these complications, some make solid decisions to leave the classical world and change their future careers completely. Kim Hyeon Jeong (26, Seoul) always dreamt of becoming a world famous pianist since she was seven. “I wanted to become a world famous pianist and a respectable teacher,” she said. She loved music with all her heart and never believed that she was sacrificing anything. However, when she started preparing for Seoul Arts High school (SAH), she finally faced the harsh reality.
Fierce competitions in music schools were inevitable. “In music high schools, the competition is worse. Students do not share information— not their professors, practice hours, or practice places. Music scores are shown publicly at school and friends are no longer friends. We all become rivals” said Kim.
It was not only the competition, but due to multiple factors, Kim decided to quit music in her transitional year into high school. Now she lives a satisfied life with her new-found passion in academics. “In the music realm, only the first place is remembered. In academics, you have more selections and opportunities, and even if you are not number one, you can successfully prove your talent and ability,” said Kim.
Only those who overcome all these difficulties can stand on the world stage. Without luck, financial background, natural talent and, of course, endless effort, young artists could not have been where they are. The young musicians in South Korea deserve more respect.