We live in a highly competitive society. It takes perseverance, passion, intelligence, resources, and even luck to reach the top in any field. Personal accomplishments and success can bring great things in life, including money, power, and influence. But the greatest achievement is giving back to a world that has been good to us. For a musician like me, this means using my talent to positively influence the people of the world.
Last month, I met a violinist living in South Korea online through Facebook. He is trying to resolve something through music that has eluded the most powerful world leaders for over 60 years – reuniting North and South Korea.
Won Hyung Joon discovered music at age seven and asked his parents for a violin. At 13, he moved to New York City by himself to study violin at Juilliard. He then relocated to Switzerland to study with world-renowned violinist Tibor Varga.
He had several forced breaks from music due to the Korea IMF crisis, conscription into the Korean army and a severe shoulder injury. Each time, Hyung Joon came back with a vengeance! He has won numerous international competitions and has performed all over the world.
In 2009, Hyung Joon founded Lindenbaum Music to return people to harmony from discord. Since the inception, he has been facilitating dialogue between North and South Korea with help from embassies, country leaders, and influential musicians including conductor Charles Dutoit.
This is a video of Hyung Joon playing the violin and speaking on the subject of 'The Future Harmony and Communication in the Korean Peninsula' at Oxford Union.
His goal is to organize a concert with both North and South Korean musicians. Named 9at38, this collaboration will feature a chorus from North Korea and the Lindenbaum Festival Orchestra from South Korea. They will perform Beethoven 9th Symphony on the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) near the 38th parallel.
The DMZ is the buffer zone between North and South Korea created on June 25, 1950, after the country divided into two parts after WWII.
Finished in 1824, the 9th Symphony is regarded as the greatest composition in western music history. It symbolizes freedom and is Beethoven’s only vocal symphony.
I arrived in Seoul three days ago and met Hyung Joon in person for the first time. We were near the Seoul Arts Center at a beautiful Italian restaurant called La Callas, named after the legendary soprano Maria Callas. What an appropriate meeting place for me, a violinist at the Washington National Opera Orchestra who trained under legendary tenor Placido Domingo!
Hyung Joon is an eloquent man with youthful charm and a friendly humor. But he is a serious artist who has gone beyond personal success to make positive changes through music.
Hyung Joon’s philosophy is that everyone should learn an instrument and play in an orchestra or a group. This will force people to listen to others and to collaborate to achieve harmony.
There are so many elements in music including intonation, rhythm, dynamics, tempo, phrasing, tone, vibrato, style, emotion and many others. Anyone not listening to the rest of the group and playing out of sync can throw an entire performance into chaotic dissonance.
Failing to listen and understand can cause conflict in more than just music. Violence, inequality, discrimination, war and terrorism can result outside of music in the real world in which we live.
Listening to each other will put the world in harmony. Hyung Joon believes we can achieve peace and the reunification of North and South Korea by learning to listen to each other first through music.
I’m happy to have met an extraordinary artist from my home country! We share similar views on the importance of culture in the world. And we agree on using culture and our own talent to save the world.
Culture Saves! :)
Before my trip back to Washington DC, Hyung Joon and I are planning a musical collaboration on top of a Korean mountain to mark the beginning of our journey to bring peace and harmony to the world through music.