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Spotlight on Student Member: HyunWoo (Nathan) Song

By Christine Kharazian
January 3, 2023

Recently, our Student Activities Chair Christine Kharazian interviewed Student Baritone HyunWoo Song. Below is an edited version of that interview.

  1. When did you discover your voice; how do you remember it?

My older sister learned to sing when I was young. As I grew up listening to her singing, I naturally followed her. So even after my sister quit singing, I continued. I was considered the best singer in my elementary school, and because of that reputation I enjoyed singing even more and have enjoyed singing in front of others since then. Also, I think the family atmosphere influenced me. When I was young, my family often gathered at my grandmother’s house, where we held many events such as a talent show. I performed with my cousins and showed off to adults and remember how nice it was to get everyone’s attention during those performances. I think these moments helped me shape my dream of becoming a singer.

  1. You came to the United States to continue your vocal training as a young artist. Do you find studying here is easier or harder than in Korea? What are the similarities or differences?

There are many reasons why I came to the U.S. from Korea, and I thought it would be helpful to go to a country with a bigger market than Korea and adapt quickly. It was a snap decision that I I made while attending university in Korea. I prepared for a month and submitted an application. But I think it’s a decision without regret. Korea and America are very different. The culture itself is different. Korea is also changing a lot these days, but the relationship between teachers and students is clear. Korean education is more hierarchical. The teacher has a higher position and the student has a lower position. This part helps you learn something quickly, but I think there is a limit to increasing students’ knowledge. On the contrary, in the United States, education is centered on helping the student learn by coming up with answers on their own. Teachers ask opinions and the reasons for those opinions. They try to convince students, rather than tell them. It takes a long time to learn something, but students could have various opinions. And in my experience, education in the United States makes me study more. I learned about music theory through middle school and high school, but I didn’t learn it deeply and surely like I did in America.

  1. You are training to be an opera singer and have already performed in many operatic roles. What was the most memorable for you so far? Can you tell us how you work on the theatrical component of the character? Is it difficult to try to be an actor while preparing for an operatic role?

Currently, I am preparing for the opera Cendrillon by J. Massenet as “Le RoiI” the king. I think this role will be most memorable for me. Until now, I was on the opera stage as a chorus member, but it is my first time on the stage with a role. This is a role that comes out a lot with choir. If there is one difficulty, it is to separate from the choir’s music and sing separately at different times. Unlike other opera kings, here the king is a comic character who becomes a fool in front of his son. It is an impressive character. For character analysis, I first open the score and read the description of the character in front of the opera score. Afterwards, I watch the opera video and interpret each situation. And then write down the translation. It takes longer to write down translations and situations than to read music. Rather, acting while singing is easier for me than just acting. I think it’s because I’m not free from various parts. I’m still trying hard because I know I’m not good enough as an actor. I think the way to be freer to act is to become more familiar with music so that I can only care about acting.

  1. Can you say a few words about your FMMC experience? Any message for our young members?

The younger the musician, being on stage is the more precious the opportunity. I was given a chance to perform at the Sue Goetz Ross Student Competition because I won second place. The opportunity was invaluable. In a way, I think that presenting the music, which I am learning, in front of others is the last step in studying the song. No matter how much I practiced, I think it’s incomplete if I haven’t performed it first. That’s how important performing is for a musician. Being on stage itself is a valuable experience, so I think I received a lot of help from FMMC. I will keep trying harder for more performances.