Idol dreams hit college music programs

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Idol dreams hit college music programs

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The most competitive early-admissions program in the country is not law or medicine at a leading Seoul school. It’s the department of applied music at Hanyang University’s Ansan campus in Gyeonggi - 2,357 people applied for just 5 spots.

The numbers are similar at other applied music programs - 293 to one at Dankook University, 279 to one at Howon University and 245 to one at Kyung Hee University.

In fact, four of the five most selective early admission plans in all Korea are applied music programs, departments where students learn a broad range of skills, including music theory, singing and instrumental performance.

These have long been competitive programs, but they did not use to be this tough. For example, back in 2006 Howon University’s early acceptance rate was 45.5 to one.

The difference between then and now, according to many music experts, is the rise of the singing audition reality TV shows.

“Watching those ordinary people sing on stage under the spotlight, I think people are thinking, ‘I want to be that guy,’” said Lee Seung-whan, the dean of applied music at Hanyang University.

“People always had the vague idea of wanting to learn music, and now that more practical music genres, other than classical, are available at schools, the competition to those majors is just skyrocketing.”

Singing audition TV shows really took off in Korea after the first season of “Superstar K” in 2009, on the cable channel Mnet. Since then, many others have followed, such as “K-pop Star” on SBS, “The Great Birth” on MBC and “Immortal Song” on KBS.

Ratings for “Superstar K” on Friday last week were 6.2 percent; solid, but down from a high of 12.7 percent in season three.

Lee Sang-woo, CEO of T.1 Vocal Academy in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, who was also a professional singer, agreed that the fad of audition programs has pushed more people into classrooms. “There’s a flood of students desperate to learn music,” he said. “If they don’t make it into the applied music departments, a few extra years of study is not a problem at all.”

There are about 100 postsecondary schools with applied music departments, including two-year junior colleges, and the number keeps growing.

Jang Hye-jeen, a professor of applied music at Hanyang Women’s University and a professional singer, said that students who wish to become a professional singer should remember that colleges are not entertainment management agencies.

“College is a place to study,” she stressed, adding, “I hope students realize that it’s not some place where you can throw away your books and simply sing.”




BY SUNG SI-YOON AND LEE KYONG-HEE [enational@joongang.ac.kr]

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