Recently people’s interests in music have increased. Although there are various genres of music such as pop, jazz, and hip-hop, music receives much love and attention from the public thanks to the development of cultural life. Just a few years ago, musicals were considered a privilege for prosperous people. But nowadays, they have become one part of the culture that everybody can enjoy regardless of sex or age. Partly that is because our standard of living has improved and famous international performances have been brought into the national market.
Here is a woman who is attracted to musicals, enjoying music, dance, and acting all at the same time. In this issue’s Gachonian section, we met Ju-in Yang who graduated from the composition department at Gachon University in 2000. She has participated in many works as a music director from a young age, and now she is pouring out her passion into ‘High School Musical.’ ‘High School Musical’ is a musical set in a high school and features Troy and Gabriella’s love and passion towards music and friendship. It is being performed at Samsung Card Hall, Blue Square from 7. 2. 2013 to 9. 1. 2013. Now, let’s hear Ms. Yang’s story about her school days, pride of her work, and endless effort to reach her dream.
1. I wonder what activities you did in college and if there is any special episode you remember.
Looking back at that time, I think I enjoyed my college life overall. First of all, I slept many times at Park Azalea as a freshman and always won the talent show at an orientation. When I was a senior, I made a band and performed at Park Azalea during a school festival. The band’s name was ‘1, 2, 3, 4 band’, and the members were mostly students majoring in music and engineering. When I think about it now, I always attended my favorite classes, but I usually didn’t go to morning classes at 9 A.M. I guess the reason why I had many absences is because when I was a sophomore I set my social life as a priority rather than my studies. I started external activities for album producing and stayed up all night many time in a training room.
2. From your school days, you worked as a vocal trainer with outstanding vocal skills; also you had many talents such as keyboard playing, chorus, and music arrangements. Is there a reason that you entered the musical genre not as a vocalist or a composer? Did you plan on working in musicals at the beginning?
As I was interested in many genres of music, I participated in various album activities like sessions, directing, keyboard, and vocals. Before talking about musical, there was a freshman welcoming party which was the reason I could work in music. When we went to karaoke during the party, a senior student in my major saw me singing. Later he called me and I helped him as a vocalist and I got an offer to be a singer. But I wasn’t planning on being a singer. I liked various genres of music, such as classical music, jazz, or pop. So I thought that the way to fulfill all these passions would be in musicals. I basically studied musicals based on classical music, and it was a significant advantage that I was interested in many genres of music. That’s the biggest reason that I started in musicals.
3. In your opinion, what is the difference between a musical and another genre? What is the charm of music from musical?
Music from musicals has many dramatic devices and I love this kind of music. I like music that can paint a picture in my mind, and I think that is the biggest difference between other genres and musicals. Because lyrics are completely composed of lines, actors should give audiences their own emotions on every line. Audiences can be touched and moved all through the process. I think that is the most important part of a musical. If there is emphasis expressing emotion, delivering actor’s own feeling to audiences then this would be the key point in a musical. A musical is a very attractive genre for those who love various genres of music. I think a musical director is a very attractive occupation for people who work in music.
4. What does a musical music director do? Please tell us about your job.
In the case of foreign countries, the work of directors and music directors is divided into many parts. But in Korea, a music director’s work ranges from actor’s vocal teaching, band and orchestra arrangement to organization of music and scene. Additionally there are a lot of things to do such as casting a director, creating a team with an assistant director, continuing training, producing an OST, and vocalization coaching. As there are so many things to take care of, some music directors hire a vocal coach and an arranger. However, as I studied composition and also am interested in music, I have done all this work on my own so far.
5. I believe for any stage performance, not only musicals, the most important thing is teamwork. What are your ideas of teamwork?
A music director is a middle position between band musicians and actors. As a music director with this position, I mainly deal with actors. The music director gives them a reasonable direction and shouldn’t force them to follow the director’s way. I think it is a process of persuasion that we talk together and lead them to a better way. If they are satisfied with and understand the direction, actors strive to absorb it as their own. In this process, if the music director doesn’t earn their faith, they would oppose the direction and wouldn’t accept it. I should know more things than them and always research. Also, I have to communicate with them and listen to their research and worries as well. Cooperation based on strong faith, is the most significant thing. To care and respect one another and make a good working situation is the greatest teamwork, I think. The atmosphere of a team is also very important. The work that has good atmosphere has a good result. That’s the reason I expect ‘High School Musical’ to get a good result.
6. You have worked in musicals for a long time, were there any failures or frustrating experiences? If you had, how did you overcome them? I wonder if you have your own know-how.
I don’t know exactly why, but I think I met good work and have worked hard. Fortunately, I haven’t experienced slumps and frustration so far. I have run without a break so there is no time to feel all those feelings. As for an episode, it was when I taught at the Korea National University of Arts. I felt a bit ironic that I was teaching Broadway where I had never been to. So, I went to Broadway at my own expense last year. That experience gave me the opportunity to see and feel Broadway and refresh myself in a bigger place. I am sure that there will be a time when slumps and doubts come. Then I think I shouldn’t forget my first intention and why I started this work. You should listen to your favorite music and remind yourself of the thrill, vibration, and happy memories from when you first started your job. I’m sure it will help you to overcome slumps.
7. You have participated in many musical projects so far. Please tell us two of yout memorable works and why.
The first one is ‘High School Musical’ which I’m doing now, because the current work that I’m doing my best at this moment is most important for me. Although ‘High School Musical’ was scheduled to open in 2009 after a workshop in 2008, there was a delay of about 5 years and finally it came to me at the end of long wait so it is really valuable. The other is ‘Wicked’. Personally it is my favorite one. I love this musical so much I even went to New York to watch this one. Because I really love this musical, I even thought it’d be okay to be a house manager (a ticket agent) of this musical. I came back to Korea with a great impression, and I incidentally got a chance to work ‘Wicked’. We will perform it from the end of November, and I want to make it successful because I admire this musical so much.
8. What would you like to tell juniors who want to be a director, actor or work as part of stage performance? What is the most important thing in this line of work? What do you think is necessary for them to prepare?
Nowadays musicals are really popular, so many young people want to work in this field. What I want to tell them is that it is important to practice, not just imagine and think vaguely. If they want to be a music director, they should not be bound by that area only. They should have a strong foundation in music. Also, they need to be able to work with people. That is, they should be equipped with an ability to make people communicate with one another, open mindedly. It is also important to be able to find his/her strength and maximize it. In terms of learning music, I would like them to study the piano a lot. Due to the nature of a music director’s job, there are lots of things to demand for actors in vocal parts. To correctly express what they want from actors, it is necessary for them to have various skills. Which means they should show it to actors, not just say it to actors.
9. I am curious about your future plans. What is your dream for your future?
Finishing up the musical ‘Wicked’ that I love the most is my short term goal. ‘Wicked’ is a little burdensome as it was considered number one for 10 years in the musical market. Still it is my dream stage, and I want to make it fine as I took it over quite early.
Since I majored in composition, I would like to experience more as a music director, exert myself and work hard, in order to achieve the level where you can’t see the difference between me as a music director and me as a composer. From then on, to write and create my own musical is my ultimate goal.
She loved her work so much and emphasized that endless effort and passion are necessary to succeed in anything. I really thanked her for replying sincerely and conveying good messages to the juniors. Among her words, ‘Don’t think vaguely, just do’, touched my heart. When you challenge something, comprehensive knowledge and skill about that part would be the most important things. Even though you can’t perfectly prepare for everything, giving up without a challenge because of your fear of failure is really a foolish choice. Even though you may fail in something, if you learn a lesson in the process, isn’t that a real experience? Throughout the whole interview, I could feel her passion for her life and work. < Copyright © The Gachon Herald All rights reserved >
After the interview, I immediately went and watched ‘High School Musical’. I saw people from various ages from the young to the old. Director Yang, who appeared onstage at the end of the performance, seemed to be more than 200% absorbed in her work. I hope that Gachon University students also have confidence for what you are doing and endlessly challenge like her.