Maestro in Wheelchair Cha In-hong, Wright State violin professor
The year 2022 was a big year for Professor Cha. He was invited to conduct at the South Korea’s 20th Presidential Inauguration Ceremony. He won the President’s Award (Grand Award) at the 17th Korea Disabled Culture and Art Award Ceremony. He conducted the Ecuador National Symphony Orchestra for the celebration concert of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between South Korea and Ecuador. Then in January, 2023, he received the Main Prize at the 2022 Korean Music Awards in Seoul. Previously, he won two 2018 Pepsi Music Awards in Venezuela, Best Classical Album of the Year for Textures from The North of South and Best Classical Artist of the Year. The album was also nominated for the 2017 Latin Grammy Awards.
He has conducted numerous orchestras such as the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra in Russia, Orquesta Sinfonica de Venezuela. Cha is also a gold medalist at the Asian Games for the Disabled in Japan and in wheelchair slalom at the 2008 Ohio Wheelchair Games. Professor Cha has visited many schools and institutes in Korea to give special lectures in his busy schedule. His inspirational lectures touched the audiences’ hearts and spread hope to them through his story of overcoming his disability and poverty. –Ed.
Q: First of all, let me congratulate on your winning the 2022 Korean Music Awards.
A: Thank you so much. I am very happy and grateful to receive this prestigious award.
Q: You were disabled by polio at a young age, but you didn’t give up and continued to learn to play the violin. How did you overcome the hardships you must have undergone in such a difficult situation?
A: As you might imagine, it was naturally very difficult to learn anything including music, considering my family background and physical conditions. I had confronted many situations I almost had to give up my efforts. However, whenever I was about to give up, many people taught, encouraged, and helped me out to continue my challenge, making me get over those seemingly overwhelming odds. I am really grateful for them all.
Q: I think you must have met many wonderful teachers while studying music. And now, you are teaching students as your teachers did for you. Please tell us about the teachers and also what you stress when teaching your students at Wright State University.
A: Well, yes, I have met many great teachers in Korea and the US since I started to learn to play the violin, but among them, I can’t forget Ms. Kang Min-ja, who taught me to play the violin first when I was living a hopeless life at a rehabilitation center in Daejeon. Without her, I definitely couldn’t be what I am. I am indebted to her and can’t express my gratitude enough for her dedication and love for me.
I put emphasis on music pedagogy rather than musical techniques here at Wright State University. Students vary in their performance levels, but I try to teach them that it is more important than anything for them to enjoy their performances. In fact, I often find that they have high self-esteem, enjoying their performance abilities and not comparing themselves with others.
A: There were some really memorable performances. First, the concert with the Ecuador National Symphony Orchestra I conducted. The performance itself was gorgeous. I was very much moved by their heartfelt welcoming mind and passion for performance as well as their performance level. Their performance of a well-known Korean folksong Arirang, arranged for orchestra was more than great.
Another one is when I gave a special lecture to the inmates at Anyang Prison several years ago. I have never heard such a roar of applause when I finished my lecture. I still remember vividly some people who tried to take my hand when I was coming out from the auditorium. I could feel myself that they found something impressive from my story and that made me feel rewarded, too.
Q: What is your plan for this year 2023?
A: I’m planning many performances this year, too, but their schedules are not fixed yet. The schedules for the concert with the Venezuela National Symphony Orchestra and the Ecuador National Symphony Orchestra are in the arranging process now, and I am supposed to conduct the Seoul International Music Festival Korea, in addition to the concerts of my university orchestra and some others.
Q: Please leave a message to young musicians.
A: Music is beautiful, as all of us agree. We live in an era so competitive, in which we unavoidably feel frustrated quite often. However, it is equally important to enjoy music while honing our ability and have the mindset of contentment in our present situation, I think.
Q: What would you tell to our young readers meeting a new year of 2023?
A: Well, as we can see from the news reports, now, the world faces many tough difficulties politically and economically. In particular, young people presumably feel more so. I think it is important to have the attitude of sincerity and steadiness in their present situation, keeping or improving their self-esteem. They have a life much longer than they feel now and their life will be evaluated after they live to its end. I wish every one of them have a prosperous new year 2023, expecting much more than the previous years.
<저작권자 ⓒ 먼데이타임스 무단전재 및 재배포 금지>
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