▲ Yang Ho Jin, right, with his brother Yang Yong Jin. Photo by Kim Soo Yang
As a Jeju islander, leaving one’s birthplace means a great deal. It is adventuring, pioneering, and ambitious. Especially for the youth, the island might seem too small for them to fully spread their wings. Yang Ho Jin was one of those who left for Seoul but his mother’s strong opposition and negative social stereotype towards working as an entertainer made him delay making a decision. Nevertheless, he chose to be pop singer after he spent his 20s as a businessman, although ultimately he never reached the level of fame that would have people recognizing him in the street.
It must have been like seeing his music dream come true after coming back to Jeju in 2002. His past experience as a professional singer is shining brighter on the island, as he holds his regular monthly concert called “Music Story with Yang Ho Jin” where he invites Jeju music lovers to perform on stage. During our talks, he kept stressing that it was important that more people perform music rather than just appreciate it.
“All Koreans are natural-born singers, as you can see in noraebang (karaoke). However, not many people have the chance to stand on stage even once in their whole life,” Yang told The Jeju Weekly, adding that even seeing a professional music concert is rare on the island.
The glossy images of famous pop singers on TV must have blinded my eyes from that point of view. As I looked back, it became clearer that I have seen more Western or Korean classical music concerts than pop music concerts.
Yang not only arranges monthly pop music concerts where almost any Jeju resident with passion for music can perform, he also teaches advanced vocal training at Halla University and gives vocal lessons at Hallasan School [See “Cultural learning at Hallasan School and Dalli Library,” Issue 51]. He also hosts a radio show on MBC AM radio during weekends, and runs a café called PAN in Jeju City. Finding the common denominator among all his activities doesn’t seem too difficult, which is music. From time to time Yang invites his students or trainees to perform on “The Music Story with Yang Ho Jin.”
When asked if Jeju influences his music activities, he affirms that Jeju’s pristine and beautiful environment is definitely an invaluable asset to inspire creativity for artists in spite of Jeju’s immature music infrastructure and geographical isolation from the mainland.
His ambition to perform on stage has evolved to providing a platform for Jeju people without a background in music to perform pop music. He insists his experience as a musician greatly helps with stage planning as well. He concentrates on making more people “do” music, adding that the ultimate goal of music is performing on the stage. More people are gathering at various online and offline communities to share their interest in music. That implies the potential growth opportunity to extend performance opportunities for more people.
Yang says that the negative opinions towards music entertainers has greatly changed. Currently, parents are registering their sons and daughters at many vocal training institutions, even hoping they will become pop stars.
In spite of the drastically rising popularity of Korean pop music, not many people think they can afford to start learning how to sing or play musical instruments. They say they wish they could learn music if they had time, and that they envy people who can play an instrument. Perhaps in response to this, more universities are opening pop music courses, and more students have bravely chosen to major in pop music. However, Yang says in reality there are not many job opportunities when they graduate.
He dreams of having more and more pop music singers and concert planners not only on Jeju but also in Korea. He hopes that more people will enjoy making music like he does. Yang insists that standing on a stage cannot be the exclusive experience of professional musicians.
When any music lover can have opportunities of sharing music performances with others, Yang says more people will be able to enjoy music in more active ways either as a hobby or a profession. He expects it will naturally create more job opportunities for young music lovers.
He is never satisfied with just dreaming, preferring to go for his goal. The monthly concert he is planning and also sometimes performing himself is just the beginning towards this goal.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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