It has been a virtual summer, but that hasn't stopped St. Mark's alumnus Junseok Jason Hwang '19 from singing. Below is a link to his virtual prize recital after he earned second place in the International Korea-China vocal competition.
A baritone, Hwang currently studies vocal performance/opera at the Julliard School of Music. In his virtual recital, accompanied on the piano by Younghee Cho, he sings pieces from Franz Schubert's 19th-century song cycle Winterreise and arias by Rossini and Tchaikovsky.
"I expected a lot of challenges ahead when I set my foot in the heart of New York City," reflects Hwang on his post-St. Mark's experiences. "It was when I started my first day of orientation at The Juilliard School that I realized what kind of safe and amazing environment I was in during my time at St. Mark's. Things were now certainly very different. I was almost overwhelmed, but I learned to overcome it day by day.
"When I think about it though, my successes in New York City have happened because I was able to find my true path back in the little town of Southborough Massachusetts. Obviously it's not the same as the Upper West Side (where my apartment is), but what I can tell you is that 25 Marlboro Road was the place that gave me a chance to grow with love, care, and passion."
Jason credits St. Mark's music director James Wallace with supporting him and his aspirations while at St. Mark's. "If it was not for Mr. Wallace who, during my Junior year, persuaded my parents about me pursuing music in college, I do not know in which college I would be now, finding absolutely nothing interesting and having not as meaningful life as I have today," says Hwang. "But that is just a small part of what he did for me. I could probably write a whole book about if I wanted to list the things I owe him for."
Then, of course, there is the current situation. "COVID-19 is a huge bummer," says Jason. "I was supposed to make my main role debut in Chautauqua Institute this summer, singing Janacek's Cunning Litte Vixen, but it got canceled along with ALL other festivals. So I came back home safe to my family. Being at home for many musicians could be a challenge since there could be decline of practice and performance opportunities. However, I was very fortunate enough to find some virtual competition, workshop and lessons to keep myself motivated and move forward. With a huge luck, I was able to win second place in Korea-China international competition (online). Thus they asked me to record a virtual recital and I have been invited to China this winter.
"If someone asks me what is my favorite piece to sing, without a hesitation I would say Schubert's Winterreise. Now this goes back to my junior year at St. Mark's. It was late October when my advisor Dr. Glomset and his wife generously offered to take me to my first live classical music performance. And it happened to be Winterreise, sung by an amazing tenor, Ian Bostridge. I still cannot get over the shock and the sensation from that day, and as soon as my vocal technique reached a certain level, I started digging into that tragic but so beautiful cycle of songs.
"So, many people asked me if Juilliard is actually cool. And here is my honest answer. Yes. It is a wonderful place for growth for musicians. Top class faculty with many performance opportunities and being next to Lincoln center is a definitely a huge plus.
"But once again, dear my teachers and friends from St. Mark's, it was all you who made it possible for me.
When this world-disaster meets its end, I cannot wait to make a visit again, hopefully sing a few songs and take a nap near the big stairs in PFAC (where I used to eat, sleep, and stress cry). On a bright and serious note, I am so grateful to all my teachers and mentors who inspired and allowed me to thrive during my years in high school. You have equipped me with a great confidence, self-love, and kindness to go through and survive in this very competitive field of opera. St. Mark's will be my forever home away from home, and I am beyond lucky to say so!"
Congratulations, Jason, on your musical endeavors!