Canada might not be his country of birth, but for pianist Wonny Song it is now the country he calls home and one he is eternally grateful for the opportunities it has given him to make music.
Having arrived in Montreal with his family from South Korea as a toddler, Wonny says the intention was for the family to only spend a couple years in Canada after his father was transferred here with his company. But like many visitors and immigrants, Wonny’s father soon fell so in love with the country that he quit his job and took up residence here.
“That actually proved to be a blessing for me,” said Song. “I honestly don’t think I would have succeeded in having a career in music if I grew up in South Korea, mainly due to the mandatory military service. I am very fortunate. Canada has constantly provided me with many wonderful opportunities in music.”
Having only been playing piano since the age of eight, which was considered a late start when compared to some of the other children also taking lessons, music was only one part of his busy childhood. “My mother has practically enrolled me in every possible child activity there is. I was a busy kid,” he said.
As he grew up, his mother recognized his natural attraction to music and being a shy kid by nature, music proved to be a great release for him. “It was almost like meditation, and I can be free to be in my own personal world and space for hours at a time.”
Fast forward to his days at the University of Montreal and Wonny tells us that it was while at university that he and violinist Alexandre Da Costa became friends.
“We did meet from time to time when we were kids because our mothers dragged us to the same music competitions, but we only became good friends when we met at the University of Montreal and discovered that we were the two youngest students of our class,” he explained. “That was really a great time for me. No worries, no stress, just the desire to learn. We also were quite mischievous. I know that our professors probably didn’t like us very much.”
Three records, concerts around the world and a stint as musical ambassador at the 1993 World Expo in Korea are only a few of Wonny’s accomplishments to date but, like many musicians that reach the top of their game, he says he will always remember the first time he played Carnegie Hall. “This hall has so many wonderful ghosts of great musical legends,” said Song. “I felt so privileged to be able to make my mark there. I still remember the whole concert like it was yesterday.”
While it might not be Carnegie Hall, on October 29th the Norman Rothstein Theatre becomes the venue where Vancouver audiences will have an opportunity to see what Song and Da Costa’s personal and musical friendship has wrought.
Wonny Song, piano & Alexandre Da Costa, Violin
Norman Rothstein Theatre, 950 West 41st Avenue, Vancouver
27 October 2010 @ 7:30pm