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Opinion

Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013

COMMENTARY

Therese Park - The best parts of a long life are still coming

Special to The Star

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Benefit Concerts for the Blue Hills Neighborhood Concerts to benefit the Blue Hills neighborhood will be held at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16 at Cure of Ars Catholic Church, 95th Street and Mission Road in Leawood; and 3 p.m. Feb. 24 at St. Therese Little Flower Church, 5814 Euclid Ave., Kansas City. Donations may be sent to the St. Therese Little Flower Church HOPE Committee, 5814 Euclid Ave. Kansas City, MO 64130.

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I just completed my sixth Chinese zodiac calendar yesterday. It was the most difficult thing I’ve done because I had no clue what it’d be like stepping into the seventh zodiac cycle.

If you’re wondering, I don’t feel any older than I was yesterday and look the same, too.

Emperor Huang Ti is said to have created the Chinese zodiac to help people understand their personalities and qualities according to the animals that represent their birth years, so they could work with others harmoniously for the common good of the dynasty he ruled.

This old zodiac calendar is still commonly used in China and other Asian countries more than 4,500 years after the emperor’s death. The zodiac has only five cycles, 60 years, which is the longest that Huang Ti thought a human could last. But I broke his expectation and have lived 12 bonus years past my fifth cycle.

Time can change many things in people’s lives, but not everything.

If you ask me what I love most about my 72 years on earth, I’d tell you three things:

• Music has been a great part of my life. Even after 30 years in the Kansas City Symphony, I’m still playing.

• Writing has kept me out of trouble. It helped me grow spiritually, too, because most of what I’ve written is about my native country, Korea, and those who fought for our freedom.

• I am a fun-loving grandma who misses her out-of-state grandkids so much that she volunteers at the Children’s Mercy Hospital to play with little patients.

The best part of my life is still coming.

The Benefit Concerts for the Blue Hills Neighborhood: In Honor of Black Korean War Veterans in Black History Month on Feb. 16 and 24 are God-sent opportunities for this not-so-young cellist. Besides, it will help single-parent and low-income families on Kansas City’s East Side. I will be performing the Piano Trio in D minor by Felix Mendelssohn with professor Un Chong Christopher and Christian Fatu, a graduate student at Park University whose name the world has heard many times already.

Professor Christopher has been performing widely in Kansas City, and I knew her while she toured Africa with the International Student Ministries and won numerous competitions, awards and scholarships in both voice and piano.

But I met Fatu recently. Born and raised in Romania in a musical family, he began playing the violin at age 4. When he was 16, he made his debut with Bucharest’s National Radio Symphony Orchestra in Romania with performance of Max Bruch’s Concerto No. 1. During the past dozen years, he has won 25 prizes and awards in many parts of the world while performing as a soloist with orchestras in the United States as well as his homeland. Last year, he was one of the finalists at the Queen Elisabeth international violin competition in Belgium.

By now, you’re wondering why such a successful violinist like Fatu is playing with an old, retired musician like me. Ask him and he’d say, “Music making is all about working, learning, and having fun!”

Often, young, successful musicians tangle into their own webs of ego and think, “I’m the best,” but not Fatu. He understands that he is a lifetime student before his master. He knows there is no ceiling in the music world, only an endless journey of diligence and self-discipline, which are the price to pay for his passion for music.

And the master doesn’t care about the age of the students! That’s why this trio an old musician, a middle-aged one and a young one will soon meet its audience at the benefit concerts. Beside the trio, Fatu will also play solos and other performers, including the Korean Choir of Greater Kansas City, will share their God-given talents.

Who says An old dog cannot learn a new trick? This old Korean dog ignores that myth and is “working, learning, and having fun!”

Overland Park resident and retired musician Therese Park has written three novels. Her most recent, “The Northern Wind: Forced Journey to North Korea,” is available at www.thereseparkbook.com and Rainy Day Books.

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