When I was a small child and listened to classical piano music, I thought that pianists were the happiest people on earth. All their life, they fight for beauty. Indeed, being a pianist is an ongoing fight with yourself. It requires endless discipline and determination to overcome the limits of your capabilities. But after a long process of struggle, another you is born, a you that speaks a language without words. Humans are profound beings but we don’t have many opportunities to allow our feelings to surface. Often, it’s difficult to express ourselves with words, so we find other ways to do so. Music is one of those ways. All kinds of music. But particularly classical music reminds us of how valuable we are. Beethoven once said, “Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy”. I knew from the get-go that my dream was to become a professional concert pianist. Unfortunately, fate presented me with multiple obstacles, so I decided to start from the bottom. I decided to start playing piano on the streets. If I can’t give my concerts in a hall, I’ll simply take them to the streets. A concert pianist would probably never think to do this, as it’s regarded as relatively shameful to be ‘degraded’ to the level of a street musician. But my need of pursuing this experiment and of improving my skills while at the same time spreading music freely to others, was much stronger than any feelings of shame or embarrassment. In a short time, my idea of offering piano music on the streets spread to North America and Europe. A man in New York started doing the same after he saw one of my street concerts on YouTube. He sent me a thank you letter with an article about him as a ‘Real Piano Man’ in the New York Times. And he said that he was already the happiest person in the world. My street concerts have additional good purposes. Many people say they don’t like or don’t understand classical music. This gives me more conviction to spread beautiful classical music on city streets. My audience ranges from CEOs to bureaucrats to homeless people.
No one is denied my music. Many good surprises came from playing on the streets. A record company called Preiser Records contacted me to record an album. They even took the risk of recording it live on the street. I was invited to play in a concert hall in Vienna and I was interviewed alongside the opera queen Elīna Garanča. The interviewer introduced me as a true street pianist, saying that “sometimes you can hear even better music on the street than in a concert hall”. I was also invited to play at the great Musikverein Golden Hall with the Austrian-Korean Philharmonic Orchestra, which was created by Ban Ki Moon. I, as a Korean pianist, was presenting Viennese classical music to an Austrian audience. After this, many directors and individuals hired me to play for their events. Once, a loving husband hired me to play in a very nice hall as a surprise birthday gift to his wife, because she had seen my concert on the street and had loved it. Once, a homeless man shouted at some people that were making noise when I was playing, telling them to keep it down! Another person put Christmas cookies by my piano. My playing area became a pleasant space for anyone who didn’t have another place to go. For this reason, I also play during the winter months, until my fingers freeze. But even in the cold, people stay for hours to listen. I am very happy when teenagers stop to listen to my music and when I see small children that don’t want to leave and that cry when their parents want to continue their way in a hurry. So, in conclusion, my decision to play on the streets was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. So far, many amazing things have happened. I am happy to hear that someone has created a platform like Book a Street Artist to support and promote street artists. I am constantly seeking truth in life. I think that insisting on doing what you really love is a big part of that truth. ◆