('88 Dept. of Inst. Music), known as Park Chong-hoon in
Korea, crosses the boundaries of musical genres with ease and grace. As
winner of the Sanremo Classico International Piano Competition in 2001,
Park established himself as a prominent classical pianist. He crosses over
to other genres, composing and performing New-Age and Jazz. He even
listens to Rock music. Park is a genre of his own. The Yonsei Annals met
this acclaimed pianist at a Jazz club in Apgujeong.
Annals: How did you start playing the
piano and how did you decide to become a pianist?
Chong Park: I don?
really remember. I started the violin first at age three and then went on to the
piano at age five. Playing the piano has been the most enjoyable and most normal
thing for me. I did go to a 'normal' middle school, but I learned there that
playing the piano was the thing for me. There was nothing I liked
Annals: How were your days at
Park: I wasn't the best of students. I didn't study much my
freshman year. My clearest memory is of a lesson with Prof. Lee Kyung-sook (Dean
of Col. of Music). As usual I was unprepared for class. She had had enough of it
and told me to forget about becoming a pianist. Then she kicked me out. It was
then that I finally cleaned up my act. I also remember the boring Chapel
classes. My friends and I would start going to Chapel and all of a sudden we
found ourselves going to play pool instead. I had to take Chapel until my last
Annals: You studied for ten years after
leaving Yonsei at both Julliard and Imola School of Music. What made you take
Park: Well, I personally believe that one has to study
until one dies. Classical music which obviously isn't Korean, should be studied
where it was born; in the West. Most musicians go abroad early for this reason.
However, I didn't find it necessary because I met so many wonderful people and
liked Yonsei Univ. I got the most out of it as I could.
Annals: You mentioned in prior
interviews that you had a hard time at Julliard. How did you overcome
Park: I had given concerts and won concours (music competitions)
during my college years and I was a bit arrogant when I first went to study at
Julliard. My teacher Seymore Lipkin taught me that music is more than mere
practice and skill. It took me a while to understand what he meant. Those were
some very dark times for me, I even thought of giving up on music. However, I
didn't give up, pulled through and let life take its course. One of the most
important things I learned from this was perseverance; it pays off in the
Annals: What else do you find hard
about being a pianist?
Park: It seems that playing the piano is no
longer about fun or about touching and inspiring people. The competition is so
fierce that it seems that pianists are forgetting the real meaning of music.
Music is not about winning concours or making money or gaining fame. Music is
about moving people and being moved yourself.
Annals: Are you yourself moved
when you play? You have composed three albums, do you use these emotions when
Park: The emotions that are left behind every stage are always
different. When composing, I capture these emotions, whether they are from a
performance or other experiences. The strongest and most lasting of these
impressions becomes my music.
Annals: Some would consider it rare for
a classical pianist to compose and interpret New-Age and Jazz. What do you have
to say to that?
Park: People say it is rare, but creating music
that is easy to relate to has always been a part of my life. I have composed and
played all kinds of music for my family and friends since I was a child. Also I
listen to all kinds of music regardless of genre. Why should my interpretations
and compositions be any different? They are all "Chong Park's" music in the end.
Annals: Is there anything you would
like to tell Yonseians about life in general?
Park: Enjoy life.
Don't live it centered on your studies, forgetting what fun is. What seems to be
mind boggling and life changing now aren't big deals when you look back. You
don't know what will happen to you in the future. Sometimes it's best to let
life take its course and not fret. The most important thing you can do is to do
what you like best. You will do it well and be happy in the process.
Chong Park is a free soul. He did not let what others
think bother him. Park became a pianist because it made him happy and because he
liked it. Had he been an ordinary pianist, Chong Park would have been satisfied
with his accomplishments so far. But Chong Park will not stop here. He will
continue to surprise you with his innovative spirit. For Chong Park is truly
what one calls footloose and fancy-free.