GKSOM faculty, students plan travel, collaborations in South Korea

(from left) Karen Becker, Seung-Kyung Baek, Kelli Bower, Gayle Rocz, Hye-Won Hwang
(from left) Karen Becker, Seung-Kyung Baek, Kelli Bower, Gayle Rocz, Hye-Won Hwang

GKSOM faculty, students plan travel, collaborations in South Korea

calendar icon03 May 2019    user iconBy Brian G Reetz

Interdisciplinary and globally impactful collaborations can change mindsets, which brings understanding and creativity to audiences throughout the world. What started as a partnership with University of Nebraska-Lincoln Glenn Korff School of Music faculty members Karen Becker (cello) and Hye-Won Hwang (dance) will be taken to another level as they embark with a few GKSOM students to South Korea this month.

The travel was made available through a new grant titled, “Student Interdisciplinary Creative Activity Grant” initiated in the Fall of 2018 by Glenn Korff School of Music Director Sergio Ruiz. The grant is offered to GKSOM students to present interdisciplinary work at international institutions in order to create relationships with music institutions at international level, global visibility for GKSOM and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“Karen and I conceived a collaboration that can promote peace and respect in the Lincoln Community among people of diverse backgrounds sometime early last year,” Hwang said, who is assistant professor of practice, dance. “We co-directed a project titled ‘Rhythm of Peace-Movement for Change’ and made several interdisciplinary collaborative pieces in collaboration with dance and music students, a local visual artist, and taiji practitioners at the Sheldon Museum of Art in October 23, 2018. We wanted to continue to do this kind of interdisciplinary collaboration, while including our dance and music students in a professional performing arts concert.”

Seung-Kyung Baek, a doctoral piano student at the Glenn Korff School of Music, was interested in the GKSOM grant and asked if Becker and Hwang would be faculty sponsors of her application. Seung-Kyung then won a grant awarded by GKSOM and the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts. With the grant support, five music and dance faculty and students - Becker, Hwang, Baek, Kelli Bower (junior dance student) and Gayle Rocz (junior dance student) – will travel to South Korea and perform five dance-music collaboration pieces at Gyeonggi Arts High School and Hansei University in May. In addition, both Karen and Hwang will be offering master classes to Korean music and performing arts students at these institutions. 

“Everything came together quite smoothly,” Becker said. “Baek contacted the administration at Gyeonggi Arts High School where she attended high school and they were happy to host our event. We were fortunate enough to have had recent graduate violin student Ye-Eun Cho make the initial introduction between the Glenn Korff School of Music and Dr. Mijung Im, piano professor at Hansei University (who performed in Kimball Recital Hall at UNL earlier this year), where Cho attended undergraduate school. All the pieces of the puzzle came together and Seung-Kyung's proposal was chosen to be funded.”

After that the program for the event started coming together. The three students will present one piece, Hye-Won and Becker will present one by themselves, Seung-Kyung and Becker will add another piece of to the puzzle, and Gayle, Kelli, and Dr. Hwang will perform their choreography.

“It made sense to end the program with all five us on stage together and Libby Larsen's Juba seemed like the perfect piece–a lively dance accompanied by clapping,” Becker said. 

“It is meaning to me because this project has motivated me to continue to create music-dance collaborative pieces with my music colleague, Karen Becker, as well as dance and music students,” Hwang said. “Working with people from different disciplines is all exciting and meaningful to learn the unique approach that each person can bring to our collaborative creation. The project is also meaningful in that our work will be presented in South Korea. I am very excited to travel to my home country with a UNL group, and I am proud to be a member of this team.”

Becker said, “I've had many wonderful opportunities to perform throughout the U.S. and abroad–solo, chamber, and orchestral–but performing with dancers and improvising on the cello is an art that I was personally introduced to only about a year ago. My upcoming trip to Seoul, South Korea presents a rare opportunity to collaborate with my wonderful colleague, the talented doctoral piano student and two creative and fun undergraduate dance students. This kind of creativity has pushed me to think outside the box in a very positive way. I'm excited to be performing two works by prominent women composers–Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's Lament will feature the cello and piano by themselves and a piece by Libby Larsen, making a dynamic ending to our collaboration where all three dancers will present their combined choreography. 

“My other contribution to the collaboration is being able to create music on the cello based on Hye-Won's choreography, which will allow a great deal of spontaneity. This is different than the kind of creativity I normally think of when I'm learning a piece that's been composed by someone else. Both types of creativity are challenging and rewarding, but I love the fact that I get to try something that is still very new to me. I'd like to think I still have room to grow as an artist and this definitely contributes to that growth.”

The travel will also be a chance to connect the two countries and make our world even more close knit.

“I think that creating worldwide relationships in scope offers artists the opportunity to share similar and different ideas, experiences, and cultural practices,” Hwang said. “Such sharing will not only inspire their own creativity, but it will also help the artists think collectively about their role as an artist in society at the global scale. I hope that our performance will contribute to developing an international professional and educational network (between the US and South Korea).            

Becker echoed many of Hwang’s thoughts.

“Our trip to South Korea will allow us to share our work with the students and faculty at both schools where we'll be presenting and will hopefully open the door for further collaboration. I hope to learn about special collaborative projects that might be going on with the Korean students and look forward to having an open dialogue with them regarding music and the arts. 

“I'll also have the opportunity to work with the cello students at Gyeonggi Arts High School and Hansei University in masterclasses where I'm hoping to hear repertoire by Korean composers. Since we'll be introducing them to works by two American composers it would be wonderful to learn about music from their country. My hope is that a student/faculty group from one or both of these schools in Seoul will be able to travel to the University of Nebraska and share their culture with our community. Perhaps in the not too distant future there can be a collaborative performance with students from Seoul and Lincoln. That would be amazing!”