Heading into the home stretch of my senior year, I think back on my four years at Eastman and the memory of my very first visit. I remember very clearly when I visited the Eastman School of Music in the fall of my senior year of high school. I flew by myself into Rochester from Rockville, Maryland to have a lesson with percussion professor, Michael Burritt. Coming from a suburban area on the outskirts of Washington, DC, I was very excited and a little uneasy about traveling to an unfamiliar city. I remember the moment when I got into the taxi at the Rochester airport all excited and nervous, looking forward to the next two days in Rochester. It was a gorgeous September day – the leaves were starting to turn, and a warm sun shone in the piercing blue sky. My first stop was the University of Rochester’s main campus, also known as the River Campus. There I met up with a high school friend and commented to him “It’s beautiful here, man.” He replied with a knowing smile, “Come back in December and see if you still say that then.”
After visiting with my friend on the River Campus, I hopped on the shuttle bus to Eastman. As the bus arrived downtown, I found myself turning my head from side to side, eager to see the buildings hiding behind the trees. My obvious curiosity probably made me to look like a real tourist among a bus full of students, but I was too absorbed with new sights to care. When we arrived at the student living center, I stepped off the bus and took a big breath as I saw the Eastman campus for the first time.
The main purpose of my visit was to have a lesson with Prof. Michael Burritt, Eastman’s percussion professor, and the lesson was truly inspiring. Getting a whole new, different perspective on things was mind-blowing for me as a high school student. Thinking about musical nuances beyond the notes, emphasizing the importance of the sound – these were aspects that I’d never thought about before. I had been focused mainly on notes and rhythm, but Professor Burritt cared so much about the actual sound I drew out from the instrument. The energy and passion was totally different than what I had experienced back home, and the environment of the school made me feel more excited about music than ever. After my lesson, I found myself in the main hall (Lowry Hall) of Eastman. I was inspired to think of all the great musicians who had walked, and still walk, through this same hallway. Musicians who are out there playing with New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, people who have won Grammy Awards, and who are great teachers at other institutions – now I was preparing to follow in their footsteps!
The next day, when I was waiting for the taxi to take me back to the airport, I stood in front of the school on the Gibbs Street and stared at it for a long time. I remember telling myself “If I could be here next year, I would never wish for anything more.”
There’s a new saying in Korea (where my parents are from), “When you are 18 years old, your life travels at 18 miles per hour. When you are 36 years old, your life will be traveling twice as fast than when you were 18 years old.” Looking back on my experience, I can’t believe that I first moved into the dormitory more than 3 years ago. My time here has passed quickly, almost without me noticing. Perhaps I’ve been so focused on the next project or the next performance that I haven’t been as aware of the months and years flying by. Or perhaps it is simply a case of “time flies when you are having fun.” Whatever the reason, graduation day is coming faster than I had ever imagined.
Now, I’m eager to see what the next phase of my journey will bring, but I’ve also come to feel very at home in Rochester. I’ve adapted to the snowy winters that my friend from high school warned me about, but also the beautiful summers and autumns that made me fall in love with Rochester. It almost feels like I’ll be here forever, and the idea of leaving seems very unrealistic and surreal. I have planted my late teens and early twenties here and it just seems like I belong to this place, permanently. But at the same time, I am looking forward to once again experience the excitement and challenges of a new adventure.
As a student worker for the admissions office, I frequently give tours of the campus for prospective students. On one of my tours, a visitor asked me this simple but interesting question: “If you were to be born again, would you do music again? If you were to do it again, would you come to Eastman again?” I answered without a second thought: “Yes, absolutely.” One of the most important lessons that Eastman has taught me is this: music is hard, just like so many important things in life. However, if you love it, and if you are passionate about what you are doing, it’s no longer a struggle. Instead it becomes fun challenge, like a puzzle. That’s why I’d still play music if I were to start over again. I’m passionate about music. I love music. Eastman has nurtured me to prove that I really do love it. It has been the ideal place for me.