For most of my life, I had viewed study abroad as a standard part of the college experience. As a music composition major, I felt as though experiencing life in another country was such a key part of being a well-rounded musician. So when I got to my college orientation and the composition professors said that students “don’t have time to study abroad”, I was shocked.
At first, I didn’t have my eyes set on a particular destination, which made it hard to rebel or even argue against this precedent that my major had set. As I toiled through my various music theory and ear training classes, the idea of spending a semester in a place with a more vibrant music scene became ever so appealing. Ithaca, New York was not exactly known for its vibrant and diverse music scene.
Additionally, I began taking issue with the eurocentric focus of my music education. There are so many amazing composers in the world, and the scholarly world of Music Theory only likes to study a small number of Western European composers. So, I began researching programs and locations that I believed I could be happy in while also fulfilling my degree needs. I was going to have to follow an unorthodox academic schedule, but I felt if I put in the time and research, I could make it work.
From a young age, I had always been interested in Japanese music. From the immortal melodies of Mario games to the ethereal soundtracks of Studio Ghibli Movies. An item on my bucket list is to visit Japan and go to the train stations just to hear the unique jingle that plays at each train station. Naturally, I thought I would end up in Japan; however, my need for rebellion would lead me to a different country.
On February 28, 2022 I went to see the K-pop group Twice in concert, and as cheesy as it sounds, that day changed my life forever. I am someone who enjoys music that is very challenging. I usually like hearing fast, technical playing and difficult to understand harmony. But there was something about Twice’s simple melodies and charming dances that resonated with me. After that night, I began exploring the world of Kpop and the idea of Korea as a possible study abroad location. I certainly was captivated by the culture and did find myself constantly jamming to a variety of Kpop songs.
The main reason why I feel Kpop and the Twice concert resonated with me was because it countered every ideal that I was being taught at college. I always had trouble with notation and was a really bad sight reader. Kpop didn’t use notation. I always felt that classical performances lacked stage presence. Kpop is all about visuals. It was a tradition that challenged a lot of my musical notions and made me appreciate how culture can affect music.
When it came down to choosing a place to study, it was between Korea and Japan. Through rigorous planning and endless meetings with advisors, I was able to design a study plan around the possibility of going to either country. Michael League, bassist from the band Snarky Puppy once said that he felt that “Europe was [his band's] land of Milk and Honey”. As a result, Snarky Puppy recorded their famous album “We Like It Here” in front of a European audience in the Netherlands. League described the importance of having a European audience to capture that live moment was important for his music making process.
While I had been a fan of a lot of Japanese music for a long time, I ultimately felt as though Korea was going to be my land of milk and honey. I don’t yet know what I want to do for a career. I am not on the road touring. I am not winning prestigious competitions. I am just trying to have an important, and hopefully life-changing, experience.
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My name is Harry Pogorzelski-Ponichtera and I am currently a music composition major at Ithaca College. I have been playing guitar since I was 7 years old. In my spare time I enjoy making music and gaming with friends!