Many people that make the giant leap to move to a foreign country are essentially looking for novelty. A new way of life, new places, new experiences, new food…new, new, new. I mean, the same is true in my case (duh, if I wasn’t looking for that I’d have just stayed home). However, there is one aspect of my life here in Korea that has me returning to something from my past – my violin playing. For the past 3 months, I have been a part of the Hyundai Heavy Industries Symphony Orchestra after taking a five year hiatus from orchestra life (hence the musical pun that is the title). As the single waygookin among the sea of Korean string players, everyone was excited to have me join – no audition necessary. Just like that, I was thrown back into the musical world that is callused fingers, weekly rehearsals, musical pieces that are seemingly impossible to play, and concert preparations. This time, with a twist. Can you guess what that could be? That’s right, Korean everything!
Luckily, the whole ‘music is universal’ saying is quite true. Musical pieces use Italian terminology anyway, words I’ve known since I was seven. I’ve just required some English for changing things around in the piece, but luckily the violin trainer is really good about demonstrating what needs to be done, so half the time I don’t need a translation. This is important in my case because there are very few people that speak enough English to communicate with me effectively. HOWEVER, that does not stop them from trying and that I appreciate so, so much. It hasn’t always been easy – there’s many times where I have no idea what’s going on or where I need to be or changes in time for rehearsals and at those times it’s very frustrating. But the fact that they always try really hard to make sure I’m in the loop further demonstrates the kindness of Korean people.
I finally got a chance to bond with the other orchestra members after our first ‘mini-concert’ we had this past Monday (a concert I only knew about a week and a half ago, by the way). We were put into ‘mini-orchestra’ groups some weeks ago and given a piece to play (at the time, I had no clue that this was what it was for, I just went with the flow). The violins, violas, and cellos/basses also had their own piece to play as well. We all crowded into a tiny side room and just performed for the rest of the orchestra. It was a great opportunity for all of us to hear each other play and have fun doing so. At the end, we celebrated Korean style by going to a nearby bar and having soju, beer, and entirely too much food for 10 o’clock at night (Pippin may have been worried about second breakfast, but would he have any qualms about second dinner?). It was the first time I had the opportunity to simply hang out with everyone. Yes, there’s still a language barrier, but I’m working on breaking it down brick by brick. This, my friends, is an example of the power of music bringing people together despite not speaking the same language.