Thursday, April 17, 2014

Monday, Mar. 11, 2013

Therese Park - Good news from Voice of America

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Living in Korea as a college student in the early 1960s, I enjoyed listening to “Voice of America” every Sunday morning through our Zenith radio.

Back then, the reporter was always a man who’d begin, “Good Morning, Korean citizens, I’m so-and-so from Voice of America in Washington, D.C. The weather this morning here is sunny with a mild breeze.” And then he’d talk about the pianist Dong-Il Han or violinist Kyung-Hwa Chung or other outstanding Koreans who were making the news in America at the time. It expanded our imaginations about America.

A half century later, I learned that the Voice of America had broadcast all over the Pacific — including my homeland — news of the “Benefit Concerts for the Blue Hills Neighborhood: In Honor of Black Korean War Veterans” that my friend professor Un Chong Christopher and I recently organized and performed in.

This boosted our egos, but the credit should go to Lewis Diuguid for a column on the concerts in The Star. VOA reporter Yanghee Jang read it in Washington, and called Diuguid for more information. I was one of a few who were interviewed for her report.

I was on Cloud Nine for a day or two; I even expected calls from my brothers and sisters in Korea, but they never came. Still, there was something grand about having been in the media for a worthwhile cause.

In her report, Jang depicted me as someone working in the predominantly African-American Blue Hills neighborhood through HOPE Committee, a volunteer group housed in St. Therese Little Flower church. However, the pastor at St. Therese, Father Ernie Davis, best described the reason we Koreans were honoring African-American soldiers of a long-ago-war during Black History Month. “There was not a single organization that ever did anything to honor the black soldiers who fought in every American war,” Davis said through VOA’s online channel. “But I’m truly glad that the local Koreans are remembering them for delivering freedom to their country six decades ago, alongside the white American troops, and planning the concerts in their honor.”

The concerts raised more than $5,000 for Blue Hills Neighborhood, but that’s not the best part of it. It was a fruitful community effort that connected the neighborhood with the local Korean community in the spirit of thanking Americans during the month designated to remember and honor black history.

Considering that this is the beginning of my seventh Chinese zodiac cycle, all signs of my future look good. I might be stretching if I say that life begins at the seventh cycle, but I feel that at least we should reverse Confucian theory that the young must learn from elders to say instead that the old shall be humble before the young masters and learn from them.

My piano trio buddies, Professor Christopher and Christian Fatu, treated this retired cellist kindly, never shaking their heads or pinching their eyebrows while we rehearsed the Mendelssohn Piano Trio in D Minor. I left the competitive world of music 16 years ago when I retired from the Kansas City Symphony, only playing occasionally here and there, while writing became my main focus. In reality, however, the musician in me has not died: she is still vibrantly alive. To prove this, I should talk about a small conversation I had at the reception following the concert at Cure of Ars.

A white-haired lady cautiously asked me, “How can your fingers still move so fast? I used to play the piano but I quit long time ago because of arthritis.”

I gave her a piece of advice: “I sprinkle WD-40 on my hands every morning to lubricate my rusted bones and joints. It surely helps.”

She laughed: “I’ll try anything. What can I possibly lose?”

I am grateful to all those who made the concerts successful in all aspects — spiritually, musically and financially.

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 and Rainy Day Books.

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