Children get a chance through music

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Children get a chance through music

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Child Affective Development of Children Program pose for a photo in a practice room while rehearsing for their upcoming concert, which will be held at the Yongsan Art Center in central Seoul today. Provided by the organizer


When he was younger, Son Jun-yong, 8, showed a remarkable talent for both memory and mathematics, so his parents placed him in a school for the gifted and talented. Soon, however, Son was becoming distracted more often and was sometimes unable to focus even for a minute. He was restless and seemed anxious, and he would blink his eyes or stammer when trying to speak.

But all of that changed a year and a half ago when he started playing the piano. And now, he is at the head of his class.

His mother, Chae Mi-suk, says the difference is like a “miracle.”

“He rarely stutters and has become less introverted,” she said.

The miracle cure was music.

Son is part of the Child Affective Development Program, which is sponsored by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

All of the children in the program are between the ages of 8 and 13 and suffer from some form of mental disability, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and most come from low-income families. The program provides the children with an education in classical music as a way to mitigate the effects of their disabilities. Around 2,440 children have participated in the program since 2008.

Today, Son and a group of children who are part of the program will show off their skills for the first time in a concert at the Yongsan Art Center in central Seoul. The concert will feature 157 children, including two soloists and five ensembles.

The program has been called a Korean version of El Sistema, a music education program for children of low-income families that started in Venezuela in 1975 with the goal of rehabilitating and educating children.

Today, the El Sistema program is still going strong.

In addition to Son, the Korean program has already helped several children mitigate the effects of their mental and physical problems.

One 13-year-old boy from Guri, Gyeonggi, who has impaired hearing, used to suffer from severe social anxiety disorder. Since starting to play the piano a year and a half ago, however, the boy has developed a growing ability to be around others without as much anxiety as before.

A large number of orchestras and musicians have already contributed their talents to the program, including Seo Hui-tae, the conductor of the Millennium Orchestra who is known as the music director of the MBC soap opera “Beethoven Virus,” and Kim Nam-yun, the director of the Korea W Philharmonic Orchestra. Both conductors will be part of today’s concert.


By Shin Sung-sik [enational@joongang.co.kr]
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