As the snow fluttered down outside of my window, I was woken up to the sound of my suitemate, who was screaming about losing his “snow-ginity.” I sat up and rubbed my eyes, attempting to clear away the perpetual dryness that contact lenses leave behind.
As a self-entitled millennial, Snapchat is immediately what I go for, and I watch the screen as I zoom in to look at the scene outside. Speckles of snow, raining down from above, as the background, while a vase (Starbucks frappé bottle) of roses stands in front of my window. I smiled and turned the app off after posting my “WINTER IS C O M I N G” video. I then looked back at the backdrop of my morning, and after finding new beauty in what I saw before me, I took another Snap, but this time just a picture.
I wondered if I was the only person who could get so sentimental about flowers, and I wondered if anyone would ever sit there pensively for thirty minutes just thinking about those flowers without even the sound of their overenthusiastic (and very loud) suitemate distracting them from their thoughts.
Snow always evokes some sort of emotion in me. Rain is dreariness, Clouds are freedom, and Snow is hope. The way the sunlight reflects off of white piles of snow fills me with a sense of hope, and I always liked to take note of that whenever it happened to snow back home in Georgia.
The day it snowed was the day after Hangarak’s (한가락) first concert, and I was still a little buzzed on the adrenaline of the night. I only expected about 30–40 people to come, but we ended up having more than 100, and although that was great and all, I had this looming sense of responsibility ahead of me.
Founding and leading the first Korean/K-Pop a cappella group at Yale is not an easy task, and I saw more challenges to come in the future as we try to increase our scope and attempt to join the ranks of the other a cappella groups here at Yale. I wondered if people actually liked us, and if we sounded any good. After all, we pieced this concert together, arranged music, rehearsed, and polished, within two weeks (within 6 rehearsals), and I wasn’t all that sure about the quality of the final product. After all, I’ve heard of at least one person that said that we were a “joke group,” and I wondered how many more were out there. After all, we were a ragtag group of singers who sort of came together, and the “auditions” that I held actually let everyone in because I didn’t have the heart to cut anyone. And to be honest, I was a little bit desperate. Even with that, within those two weeks, we lost about four singers due to how short notice everything was. We only had nine people singing at the concert, making for a very small a cappella group.
Before the concert, I felt myself have an increasing sense of dread as I noticed my stress levels hitting the ceiling. Frankly, I wanted to scream. Nothing seemed to be working, I didn’t have the courage or gut to quell some disputes that happened within the group prior to the concert, and a thought of regret glanced across my head as I thought about how much of a mistake making this group was. How I couldn’t possibly lead it, and how with every step I take towards progress, I feel like I’m just progressing towards a cliff.
We step on stage, and I wonder why all these people are here, and I have a split-second of worry that screamed “this is a total embarrassment” inside of my head. But then I saw my Korean professor, and over there I saw my two best friends, one of them holding up their phone for Snapchat purposes, and then I hear my suitemate, the one who would wake me up the next morning about his “snow-ginity,” screaming my name and waving his arms. I took a second to mentally swallow the fear into my stomach as I put down what I realized was a dysfunctional microphone back on the music stand.
I spoke to an audience of more than 100 people, and I suddenly felt very vulnerable. I used to be the type of guy that could stand in front of hundreds of people and not be phased at all, but after coming to Yale, that went away. After getting rejecting by 16 different auditions, having to start from the bottom-up, and finding myself in a strange situation between isolation and loneliness, I developed stage fright. After trying my all to achieve some sort of goal, and after forcing my way towards getting what I wanted, I realized that what I wanted was the stage, but now I have an intense fear of it.
I stared out towards the audience, my vision blurring and the lights shining on my face. But in that moment, for a very small second, I saw the pride in my professor’s eyes, and I saw the amount of hope she had. I finally began to speak, but before I uttered my first sentence, my professor reaches out towards me from her front row seat, a rose in her hand. The crowd cheers, and I graciously accept the rose. Within was a secret dialogue, where I was a baby bird being pushed out of the nest for the first time. And there I was flapping around, catching air, and more or less, flying.
“감사합니다.” Thank you.
The person standing to my left is Jisu, clearly more experienced than me in every possible way. She’s cool, calm, and absolutely takes over the stage with her presence. While I scrambled, she set everything in place, and I let her do the talking while I put my thoughts together.
Our concert was in joint coalition with spoken word poets from all over campus (mostly from Jook Songs), who performed poetry that came from their Korean cultural experiences. I was one of those poets; my poem covering a topic that I didn’t want anyone to know, but I felt like needed to be shared.
Each poet interlaced some aspect of Korean into their poetry. I, for example, said some of the highlight lines in Korean and then immediately in English, to re-emphasize each point. But, my method paled in comparison to the methods used by the other poets. Music-driven pieces, full translations, and spoken word that comes from the soul. Korean, not just present in the performance, but completely interlaced, inseparable, from the piece as a whole.
I once thought that no one would take my ideas seriously, and that no one would really take action to help me in bringing my plans to fruition, but that day, I sat in the audience watching those poets, and I stood on stage watching my group singing songs, and for just a moment, I felt complete. Months of planning, of getting members together, and of practice, and the culmination of all that work really came through in that moment. A part of me is neurotic about our actual performance, how we sounded and how we looked, but another part of me didn’t care.
Both rehearsals weren’t initiated by me. While I was stressing out about having only two rehearsals before the concert, the more level-headed members of my group decided that we didn’t need to only have two. We could have four. Our morning rehearsals were some of the most productive times we met up, and I had a great sense of pride in the people that I met through this process, their willingness to drive through, and their commitment into this project. It was inspiring to see them doing this while I was sitting there hopeless. And then after that second morning rehearsal…
I honestly have no idea why I’m writing all of this and posting pictures, but I felt like it was important. This entire experience has been an absolute ride, and every day that passes after the concert, I think about how happy I was in that moment. The moments when we stood on stage, the moments when we met together for early morning rehearsals, and the moments we came together to make this happen. It was probably the first time I felt a sense of “community” at Yale, where everyone seems to be preoccupied in their own obligations and head-spaces.
Regardless of how we sounded, and regardless of what bumps came in the road, I’m proud of Hangarak. I hope that we can make more music together and continue to establish our name at Yale.
If any Hangarak members are reading this (even the members who couldn’t perform this concert!), I want to thank you for all that you’ve done. This was my dream, and it would have never come true if it weren’t for you.
“이 뜨거운 날을 잊지마라.” — “Don’t forget this burning day.”
And to my Korean professor, thank you for being my supporter and adviser throughout all of this. Without you this really would not have happened. I’m so fortunate to have met someone like you in my first semester at Yale.
교수님, 진심으로 감사합니다. — Thank you so much.