Korean orchestras, foreign musicians
In October, he found a home in Korea when he joined the Daegu City Symphony Orchestra, becoming the first foreigner to join the 45-year-old orchestra.
“I’d never heard of Daegu before I joined the orchestra,” he said. But after hearing from a friend that the principal horn position at the orchestra had been vacant for five years, Powell decided to apply.
These days, there are more foreigners in Korean orchestras than ever. A survey conducted by this newspaper found that there are 28 foreign musicians in 10 of the 15 major orchestras in the country, excluding foreign nationals of Korean descent. The figure is more than twice that of three years ago.
Foreign musicians are employed in the city symphony orchestras of Seoul, Daejeon, Daegu, Ulsan and Suwon, among others, as well as the Gyeonggi Philharmonic Orchestra, Korean Symphony Orchestra and KBS Symphony Orchestra. Of those, the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra has the largest number of foreign players at 14, which observers say is mainly due to the efforts of music director and chief conductor Chung Myung-whun.
“When I was studying at the Julliard School, I heard that Chung was holding auditions in New York to recruit performers for his orchestra,” said Jason Matthew Crimi, an associate principal trombone player at the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. Crimi said he had been hoping to join an orchestra in the United States but chose the Seoul orchestra after hearing that Chung was the conductor.
Along with his sisters - the violinist Kyung-Wha and the cellist Myung-Wha - Chung is an internationally-renowned pianist and conductor.
Many of the foreign musicians in Korean orchestras cite the potential for growth and relatively good working conditions as reasons for coming here to work.
Mark Komonko, an associate principal violinist at the Seoul Philharmonic, believes that when people of different cultural backgrounds communicate and interact, the result is a better sounding orchestra.
However, not all Korean symphony orchestras are open to foreign musicians. Smaller orchestras with little or no international exposure get few inquiries from foreign musicians simply because they are not as well known.
Still, Komonko thinks that Korean orchestras should accept more foreign musicians.
Oh Pyeong-Kwon, an artistic adviser to the Seoul orchestra agrees.
By Kim Ho-joung [firstname.lastname@example.org]