No kidding around for this jazz pianist

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No kidding around for this jazz pianist

The title certainly carries a whiff of authority: Dean of Practical Music at the Seoul Institute of the Arts.
But as far as appearances go, Hahn Choong-wan looks more like one would imagine a jazz pianist. Which he is.
His hair, short and bleached silver gray, is spiked with gel. He prefers wearing jeans and a leather jacket, he says, because it feels more comfortable when he rides his motorcycle.
The 43-year-old is known among his circle of musicians as the “first Berklee generation.” Though he graduated with a degree in agriculture from Seoul National University, he took a radical turn: He went to Boston to study jazz at the Berklee College of Music. There, he became known as one of the first so-called “ethnic Berklee musicians.”
That group includes plenty of famous Korean musicians his age, such as Kim Kwang-min, Chung Won-young and Han Sang-won. One of these names can usually be found in Korean ballads or folk-music records.
But if Mr. Hahn can be distinguished from other Berklee graduates, it’s on account of his intense affection for his children and how his music reflects that.
“I am not a very affectionate father at home,” said Mr. Hahn, who has four children. “But I try to include a song for them in my albums. I think that’s what a musician father can do for his kids.”
His 1995 album “Corea Corea” included a song called “A Song for My Daughter,” as well as a Korean nursery rhyme that he arranged to a jazzy rhythm.
One may wonder how well a simple tune can be arranged. Well, that album was recently re-released after jazz fans were overjoyed to find that a simple melody can be improvised in so many ways.
In 2000, he wrote “To My Daughter,” and more recently, he included “Paper Plane” in a 2003 album, another variation for his children.
This month, Mr. Hahn will express his untiring love for children at downtown Seoul’s Chongdong Theater. From Aug. 7 to 22, he will be holding a concert for teenagers and younger children. A close approximation of the show’s Korean title would be “An Exciting Tale About Jazz that a Piano Player Father has to Tell You.”
“In places like the United States, jazz is thought of as one the important genres along with classical music, so kids learn about it,” Mr. Hahn said. “I am not saying that jazz is the very best music, but I think Korean children should get a chance to learn what jazz is.”
At the children’s jazz concert, he will play some of the most famous children’s verses or theme songs from animated films in a jazzy style ― an easy repertoire to get kids excited about jazz, he said. He also plans to touch briefly on jazz history before performing each song.
Tickets are 15,000 won ($12.50) or 20,000 won. Only children ages 2 or older are admitted. A parent bringing two or more children will receive up to a 30 percent discount. For more information, call (02) 751-1500.

by Lee Kyong-hee
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