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50 Years of Alumni: Chris Kwon

College(s)/University attended:
Harvard University

What years were you in GTCYS?
2012-2018, graduated in 2018.

What skills or lessons did you learn in GTCYS that you still use today?
I grew up with GTCYS from middle school until I left for college. So many of my close friends within the music community came from GTCYS and they are some of the closest people I have. I really appreciated Mark Russell Smith’s passion and expertise of music. He’s one of the best conductors that I ever got the pleasure of playing with. He is a core part of GTCYS and of the music community of the Midwest and most certainly within the Twin Cities.

Why do you think GTCYS is important for students now?
GTCYS musicians are trained in a positive and inclusive environment. We live in a time where putting blame on others comes naturally and divisiveness pits certain groups against each other. Music can help foster principles that can combat these vices. I was quite lucky to grow up within the Twin Cities classical music family that I have. I never felt playing with GTCYS to be anything other than sharing my love of music with others. I remember playing Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 and being emotionally and physically exhausted. But I felt proud to be with my orchestra friends in that moment. That piece always brings back floods of emotion: pride – of giving everything that I had, sadness – that there has to be an end to the piece, love – of the emotions I created with my friends. It has been and continues to be a privilege to be a part of this organization. GTCYS gave me all the memorable aspects of playing in an orchestral setting.

How does music still play a part in your life?
I’ve been a part of the Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra since freshman year (I’m currently an off-semester junior). Because we are the largest symphonic orchestra on campus, we have the luxury of tackling pieces like Mahler. I can’t wait to get back to playing in person with my orchestra-mates in the beautiful Sanders Theater. During the 1.5 years away from campus, the orchestra recorded and patched parts together because everyone was around the world. The orchestra took my suggestion to play Jupiter’s theme. Little did they know I knew that part of the piece well. The recording should be up on our YouTube channel!

What is your favorite composer or piece of music?
Franz Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata

What’s a fun fact about yourself?
I really enjoy cooking Korean food. My favorite thing to make is scallion pancakes.

What do you hope to see from GTCYS in the next 50 years?
I hope to see GTCYS continue to train a diverse set of musicians who will love music for the rest of their life. Something that I really admire about GTCYS is their commitment to continue expanding the accessibility of classical music to underserved communities. While I was an active member, I witnessed the Harmony program begin. This type of program strive towards a future where classical music is available to all. I hope they continue to expand their outreach programs.

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