Classical pianist Alpin Hong reaches young audience

By Ryan Carpe rcarpe@civitasmedia.com

March 6, 2014

DARKE COUNTY – The Darke County Center for the Arts presented classical pianist Alpin Hong to local junior high students this week as part of its ongoing Arts in Education program.

Hong, whose background also includes skateboarding, martial arts, and video games, established a quick rapport with the pleasantly surprised junior high students.

And after building up resonance with an effective mix of music education and standup comedy, Hong transitioned to a wider list of classical compositions.

Because to him, symphonic music denotes significance which extends beyond many other artistic endeavors.

“Classical music, unlike other forms of entertainment, you can’t simply let it wash over you,” he said. “The more you invest your intellect and consideration into it, the more profound it becomes. Because it involves hundreds of years of tradition, it requires that investment of time and energy to do that.

Hong began his work with musical outreach early in his career after noticing the widening generational gap of classical music preferences.

“Even while I was at school at Julliard, I was realizing that there was a certain audience that was not being reached. We are a couple generations removed from the time when classical music was in the home, church and other public meeting spaces,” he said. “Particularly in inner city New York, there’s a whole segment of the population that had little or no exposure, and I was realizing that the classical audience was getting older and smaller. There were very few advocates going out and inspiring new uninitiated ears to appreciate this music.”

Originally Hong played more traditional classical selections for audiences without much variation, but over time chose to integrate pop culture to gain a wider audience.

“I realized that simply telling them the dates that Brahms lived or died was not sufficient in order to bring them into the fold. But the fact is that truly what an audience craves, and even myself, is some kind of connection to the arts.”

Alpin Hong hails from Michigan, though he moved to Los Angeles shortly after gaining impressive accolades at the 1989 Stravinsky Piano Competition, the 1993 SYMF Competition and the 1994 Los Angeles Spotlight Awards Competition. He was the winner of the Concert Artists Guild Competition in 2001, and completed his Master’s degree as a student at The Juilliard School.

The Arts in Education presentation ran over four shows, and included students from each Darke County public school district, as well as students from DeColores Montessori School, St. Mary’s School and several home schooled students.

“What the study and appreciation of music does is imbue qualities that are tough to find in other fields, which are self confidence, the value of a common humanity, being able to break down barriers because its a universal language, and it allows kids to see beyond the walls of their schools or the borders of their towns, or even the boundaries of their nation,” said Hong.

“It’s part of our mission to provide cultural enrichment to the community, and that starts with the youngest of our citizens,” said DCCA Executive Director Andrea Jordan.

According to its mission statement, DCCA “strives to expand horizons and inspire creativity in young hearts and minds through Arts In Education.”Artists are generally in-residence for a week, while volunteer escorts often accompany the musicians to a variety of venues for a one-hour performance.

Programs are selected and planned in cooperation with local school administrators, while funding for the program is provided by local schools, the Ohio Arts Council, DCCA memberships and local foundation and corporate support.

Jordan not only thanked the Greenville School District for hosting the Arts in Education program, but also commended their usage of the historic St. Clair Memorial Hall.

“I love that, for the junior high students, we’ve brought them to Memorial Hall, the jewel of our community,” she said. “Many of the kids in the county may have never made it to Memorial Hall and experienced that full performance atmosphere.”

“I thought Alpin Hong was an outstanding performer, and Greenville City Schools are proud to be a part of the Darke County Center for the Arts program,” said Greenville Superintendent Doug Fries. “I thought his presentation was both very entertaining and very educational for our students.”