What Drives Me/Why Did I Write This Thing???

So what drives me? Why did I write this long epistle about the adventures of an average musician who somehow made a life for himself in the brutally competitive world of classical music? At first I was reluctant to do it. I was worried it would look self-indulgent, but a close friend and confidant told me I had to do it. That it would give some context to what I’m trying to do and why I do it. It goes back to being that immigrant kid, caught on the outside looking in and wishing he had the things the other kids had. I want to give everyone what the other kids have.

I once gave a clinic at an inner city school in Orlando and a student told me that his greatest wish was to have a beautiful vibrato. I gave him a quick primer and when my vibrato locked in and started to make the violin sing his eyes lit up. I told him that I would give him a free lesson if he could make it to UCF. He told me that nobody in his family had a car but that he would walk the 20 miles there to learn how to vibrate. How can one not be inspired to serve a student like this? I think of other students, including the girl who was playing principal viola during an honor orchestra. She was obviously in great pain but would not stop playing even when I told her to take a few breathers during rehearsal. How can one not be moved to try and alleviate her pain? Then there was Victor, the student from my first blog post who insisted that he was playing an A because his finger was on the tape. He was playing an A# and only relented after playing his A# against my open A string. The thing that breaks my heart about Victor is that he had a great ear. He later worked up the courage to come and ask me how to tune his violin. I gave him an A from my instrument and he was able to match it perfectly. I then told him to go ahead and tune the other strings. He looked at me with what can only be described as extreme trepidation but I gently nudged him along and he gave it a try. He haltingly turned the fine tuners and I told him to go flat then sharp until he found the spot that sounded good. Tuning A/D strings? No problem. Same for the others. His ear was perfectly sound, but he was tuning with his eyes. I’ll never forget that moment and the breakdown in pedagogy that led to his being in this predicament. There are so many others, including examples of very advanced students who need one little gap filled to make everything in their playing better.

The thread that ties all of these students together is how much they all loved music. Their eyes shone when they spoke about it. Their faces lit up when they heard what they were yearning for or had a small breakthrough. Witnessing these moments is addictive. I could see them every day and never get tired of them. As someone once said of love, the more you give the more is created. It’s the only self-generating-perpetual-motion-machine that I can think of. This is my way to express love and share it with everyone. This is why I do what I do.

Copyright Rising Tide String Project 2018 (Erik Bryan and Chung Park)

Please contact me at chung@chungpark.com if you’d like me to come and lead a workshop. I’m available for student workshops and teacher professional development sessions.