[Viewpoint] Aspiration is the sweetest music

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[Viewpoint] Aspiration is the sweetest music

The Korean Armed Forces Orchestra had its first concert at the Seoul Arts Center in Seocho-dong on Feb. 10. The orchestra began with Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” military march, followed by the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and the fourth movement of his Ninth Symphony.

They might have been nervous about performing in front of an audience for the first time. Indeed, the orchestra members, although all music majors, had begun their military careers as drivers, gunners or riflemen. When the Korean Armed Forces Orchestra was established, they were selected through auditions.

The orchestra sounded shaky at first, but as the concert progressed the music became more stable and powerful. The members were not international competition winners, who are exempted from military service. However, they seemed to be determined to continue their musical careers while serving in the armed forces. When they played the Beethoven symphonies, they were on par with any professional orchestra. The members displayed unmatched passion and devotion to the music. I thought any one of these soldier musicians could become a star in classical music. They might be late bloomers, but they displayed glorious talents indeed.

Surely they must once have been aspiring musicians dreaming of an international debut. However, in reality, they had to join the military and stand guard in the freezing barracks, holding rifles instead of instruments. Looking at the hands that the cold had numbed, they might have thought their musical careers were over. Nevertheless, in the barracks they were given another chance to play, and they accepted it as a chance not merely to play their instruments but revive their dreams, wake up the musical souls inside them and rebuild their career goals.

That’s right. This life offers more than one chance. You should not give up as long as you are alive. In fact, the Sangmu teams of the Armed Forces Athletic Corps often display formidable play in various sports fields. The Korean Armed Forces Orchestra can become more powerful than the Sangmu in the classical music scene.

Last Thursday, the Busan Boystown Symphony Orchestra had a benefit concert at the prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York. Founded by late Monsignor Aloysius Schwartz, the Busan Boystown Symphony Orchestra’s members are students and graduates of the middle and high school affiliated with Busan Boystown, a children’s shelter. The members have not received formal musical education or lessons. They were taught and trained by one another, and their instruments - donated by benefactors of the order - are very humble. Nevertheless, they performed at Carnegie Hall, the most prestigious venue in the world for any musician.

After I first listened to the performance of the Busan Boystown Symphony Orchestra, I wrote a column for the JoongAng Ilbo’s Aug. 25, 2007 issue titled, “The most beautiful concert in the world.” I wrote, “The instruments they were playing were not master works, but they were creating a masterpiece out of their lives. A prestigious life is not created by inherited status or wealth. The children of the Busan Boystown Symphony Orchestra remind us all that a respectable life is created by the profound self-affection to stand against fate and never to give up on life. So their performance made it the most beautiful concert in the world.”

As I watched them turning their humble origins into glorious accomplishments, I thought that there was no more wondrous word than “nevertheless.” They did not hesitate and they did not give up. They went forward, overcame hardship and made their dreams come true. After all, each and every member of the Armed Forces Orchestra and the Busan Boystown Symphony Orchestra was a man of action and a winner with spirit.

Challenge your dream with the indomitable will and spirit of “nevertheless” until the day we all become winners.


*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Chung Jin-hong
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