|Giving back: Tenor Park Sung-min (second, left) and other Vietnamese artists pose for a photo behind stage at a Luala concert show last December on a pavement in downtown Ha Noi. — Photo soi.com.vn
by Minh Thu
When Korean tenor Park Sung-min married Vietnamese pianist Trang Trinh, it cemented his relationship with Viet Nam.
This meant he could live his dream of bringing music to underprivileged children in Viet Nam, and so he decided to live here.
The chief conductor of the Korean Choir in Ha Noi and his wife have launched Miracle Choir, a music training project for poor children.
Park believes that music can create miracles for these children.
The opera singer graduated from Yonsei University and has performed in many choirs in various countries.
He is not only a renowned singer, but was awarded a certificate of Music Education by Yonsei University in 2010.
Park and Trang met in London 2009 when they studied music there. Sharing the same passion for music, they got along from the start. They often went to concerts together, and started working together musically.
Three years later, the couple married. "We gave a lot of thought about where to settle, Korea, or England, but then we decided to stay in Viet Nam where we share the joy of teaching music to orphans," he said.
"It would have been more comfortable as a newly married couple to stay abroad. However, we also know that there is no better time to pursue dreams than when we are young. So we decided to give it a go. And here we are."
The couple established Miracle Choir consisting of 18 children without parents. They don't just learn music, they also learn how to live in harmony with each other and work together towards a beautiful goal.
Miracle Choir is a Vietnamese version of El Sistema, a well known programme worldwide which has changed many children's lives.
"I was impressed with the way that El Sistema gives music access to all children," Park said. "All over the world, this programme has proved itself to be not simply a music education programme. It actually transforms lives.
"We both believe in the power of music in helping underprivileged children, and after careful study, we knew it was the right choice to apply to Viet Nam."
Park said in Korea, most children have access to music education. They started learning a musical instrument when young. This makes them very confident at expressing themselves through music.
"In Viet Nam, children have little access to music education, especially the underprivileged one," said Park. "I give them a very basic understanding of music and ways in which they can express themselves through music. I do think that all children have the potential to understand and to make music.
"Vietnamese children also possess the sensitivity, talent and imagination required for making beautiful music, but they are still shy and afraid to express themselves fully," he said.
That's the reason why the couple launched the music training project, setting up a choir that is like a school of real life, said Park.
By playing music, they build their identity as persons who can give the gift of music, of imagination and beauty to others.
"As they perform on stage, they are no longer disadvantaged children, always waiting to receive gifts. They have become givers of beauty, and that in itself is life transforming, because it gives them hope that they can indeed become someone who is irreplaceable, unique, and possess value in society."
During the lessons, the artists teach them through team-work, acting, soft-skills, and other creative ways of letting them find and express themselves.
"For example we spent two months learning about music and the body." Park said.
"Children learn how to take care of themselves, how music affects their inner life and physical life. Music becomes the environment in which they can learn new values and better shape their world-view."
The children also learn to sympathise. Hearing the sad news of Korean ferry tragedy, the choir wrote message of hope on a yellow ribbon. They carefully tied them on the fence at the Korean International School Ha Noi.
Park has spent a year living in Viet Nam and enjoyed new experiences, culture and people. He said he's adapting to the life here and becoming like a Vietnamese.
On an ordinary day, he studies, practices, teach music, conducts choir and studies Vietnamese.
Now Viet Nam is his second home, where he has a life partner and nurtures a dream of bringing a better life to young people facing hardship. — VNS