Beats beyond the classroom: Vanderbilt’s percussion experience in South Korea

The Vanderbilt Percussion Group, composed of exceptionally talented students from the Blair School of Music, found harmony and inspiration in South Korea as they engaged in master classes with professional musicians and performed on South Korean stages. This educational and exhilarating adventure, sponsored by Immersion Vanderbilt and the Blair School of Music and vividly captured in this video, was designed to expand the students’ musical and cultural horizons. The trip, as well as the months of performance practices and planning, served as an Immersion Vanderbilt project for all 10 traveling students.

In the video, the group’s activities unfold, showcasing a series of performances that reveal their immersion into the world of Korean percussion. Guided by Associate Professor of Percussion Ji Hye Jung and Adjunct Associate Professor of Percussion W. Lee Vinson, the students’ talents shone brightly against the backdrop of South Korea’s vibrant culture.

The Vanderbilt Percussion Group poses with percussion instruments while visiting South Korea (Vanderbilt University)

A highlight of their tour was the performance at Seoul National University, which showcased the group’s talents to an international audience and allowed them to engage with the universal language of rhythm and percussion. Sophomore Matthew Oh, an Integrated Studies-Instrumental Teacher Education major, reflected on the experience: “The students and faculty welcomed us with open arms and made the setup, rehearsal and performance processes seem effortless. With such an enthusiastic audience feeding us energy on stage, it was hard to believe that we were halfway across the world from where we had performed the same program at Blair just a week before.”

The group’s exploration into Korean percussive music involved workshops with local experts, in which they delved into the traditional rhythms and techniques that define the genre. These immersive sessions were not only about skill enhancement, but also about appreciating the role of percussion in a diverse cultural setting.

Beyond performances and workshops, the trip included visits to historical sites and interactions with local students, giving the Vanderbilt group a more nuanced understanding of the cultural influences that shape musical expression. These experiences, rich in history and tradition, added depth to their global perspective and appreciation of cultural diversity in music.

Jung emphasized the educational intent behind the excursion: “Our goal was to immerse the Vanderbilt Percussion Group in an environment where they could apply and expand their musical knowledge. This trip was about exploring the diverse world of percussion music in a culturally rich setting.”

Experiential learning trips like this are vital for undergraduates. They provide an opportunity to apply academic learning in diverse environments, fostering adaptability, creativity and a broader worldview. For Blair students, such experiences are preparation for the diverse and dynamic world of music.