Pensacola is the first place that violinist Samuel Park called home in the United States and soon he will be returning for an alumni performance at the University of West Florida’s Center for Fine and Performing Arts Music Hall.
Park, who is Korean, came here from Germany to pursue his education at Pensacola Christian College, and then he went on to the University of West Florida where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Music Performance.
Violin is not easy to master and choosing the instrument came from an innocent place. His brother, who is four years older than Park, was taking violin and piano lessons each week. Park’s mother was driving two hours for a one-hour lesson.
“She told me that she might as well get the most out of the trip,” Park explained, “so I started playing piano and violin at about 5 years old.”
Park went through some years when he did not like music at all, he wanted to hang out with friends like everyone else and not spend countless hours in the practice room. Now he is grateful for the ultimate sacrifice. Violin was always a passion more than a profession.
He is currently working on his second master’s degree at The Julliard School, and will be finished in May of this year. Julliard is the country’s most prestigious school for the arts. The path to Julliard was an interesting one for Park, one he never thought he would be on while he was attending school here in Pensacola.
Park moved to Texas after graduating from UWF and while he was working on his master’s, musicians from New York heard him and were fond of his playing style.
“They recommended I audition at Julliard,” Park said. “At the time I was more interested in performance versus academic pursuits, so auditioning at Julliard sounded like a good idea. I prepared quite a bit, even practiced my recital in Pensacola. It worked; I made it into the program.”
The schedule at Julliard is action packed. The message he wants to convey is that the kids at Julliard are not just from New York, they are from everywhere in the country—it is possible for anyone.
Although Park has many interests outside of music, including sports medicine and spending time outdoors, as a busy musician he doesn’t have a lot of spare time to pursue them.
“I am spending a lot of time flying to performances,” he explained. “I have one coming up in Brazil, Chicago and Montana. When the doors open, news spreads fast, you end up traveling and playing concerts. It is both rewarding and tiring. Not as much time for my other interests right now.”
Music is not about perfection for Park. He discovers more and more about a piece each time he plays it. When he was 13, he played a piece of music, then played the same piece at 30 and began to question whether he had actually played it before. This discovery is his ultimate inspiration, and the reward is greater than money. A reward he hopes to share with many young musicians.
Mentoring young students is a big part of what he does when he travels. He traveled to China as a member of the Bancroft String Quartet, where he helped establish a new chamber music program at the Music School of the University of Technology in Guangzhou.
“A student commits their career to a teacher that is a huge responsibility and very rewarding,” Park said. “It is nice to have a career and do something important with it. When you spot talent it is your responsibility to open doors for them as have been opened for you.”
Park has had many who have served as teachers for him. “I have met a lot of influential people who have opened up new ideas and realizations,” he said. “The real influence is the music itself. It takes a long time to understand the music. Many know how to play it, but do not know what it means.”
According to Park, China lags behind Europe and the United States when it comes to chamber music. Outreach for this genre is a passion of Park’s.
Chamber music plays a big role in the performance he has planned for March 6. Currently, he is finalizing the program and though he is still debating on a few pieces, he says the first half will be a Baroque repertoire, mid-17th to mid-18th Century, and the second half will be from the romantic modern period. He chose music pieces from composers that have not gotten a lot of exposure.
As Park returns to Pensacola, he is excited about playing for people he is familiar with. He likens it to propping his feet up on the coffee table and having a cold beverage.
SAMUEL PARK IN CONCERT
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 6
WHERE: Center for Fine and Performing Arts Music Hall Bldg., 82, 11000 University Pkwy.