The recorder helps students learn about lifeHansan Middle School on Hansan Island, a half-hour boat trip south of Tongyang, South Gyeongsang province, is a rather unique place ― it has just 27 students. The pupils there are full of confidence and readily share jokes with their teachers. But this was not always the case.
“The students used to have an inferiority complex and the school’s atmosphere was gloomy. Many of them were troublemakers and did not listen to their teachers,” said Park Jong-hwa, 38, the school’s music teacher, recalling conditions when he first arrived at the school.
Seventy percent of the student body, or 19 students, have no parents or come from single-parent households; many have lost their parents in accidents at sea.
Mr. Park wanted to instill confidence in the students through music and create an orchestra. Because of the expense involved, he decided to teach them to play the recorder and set about borrowing the instruments from the owner of a musical instrument store he knew.
In the beginning, the students were opposed to learning to play music, claiming they did not have enough time, since their parents and guardians said they should spend time studying rather than learning to play the recorder.
Mr. Park tried to reason with the students and those looking after them, and soon they were practicing for one hour before class, half an hour at lunch time and another one or two hours after school. They continued to practice during summer vacations, eating and sleeping at the school as Mr. Park’s wife and three children helped prepare meals for them.
That’s how the Island Village Recorder Orchestra was born.
The orchestra performed for the first time in public at a competition among middle schools in South Chungcheong province in Masan on Oct. 19, 2004 with a repertoire that included the difficult piece “Bugler’s Holiday,” which the audience truly appreciated.
With the resultant acclaim came changes in the students ― they became more active and visited the teachers’ office much more often.
“I gained confidence from the fact that there are people who acknowledge us,” said Kim In-jun, a senior and student chairman. “I realized that the more cooperative we are, the better music we make.”
Mr. Park held a music festival for Hansan Island’s residents in November 2004, which also changed their attitude toward the school and even life itself.
“I spent much of my time drinking, but after I saw my daughter perform, I felt content with bringing up my child. Now I’ve quit drinking and have started to take my life more seriously,” one resident said.
After the story of the orchestra’s effect on the school and the residents became public, the students were asked to showcase their skills in many different places. The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development invited the orchestra to perform in Daejeon at an education innovation forum on Dec. 10 last year, while the Kyungnam Medical Association asked the group to give a concert in the Daesan Art Museum and donated 4 million won for the purchase of new musical instruments.
by Kim Sang-jin