published Friday, March 15th, 2013

Korean Presbyterian Church offers music, language, culture academy with classes for all ages

Yunbin Im goes through an exercise in Korean with her students in the Chattanooga Christian Academy, a new school of language, music and culture at the Korean Presbyterian Church.
Yunbin Im goes through an exercise in Korean with her students in the Chattanooga Christian Academy, a new school of language, music and culture at the Korean Presbyterian Church.
Photo by Jay Bailey.
  • photo
    Minjeong Won, left, teaches Lina Park how to play the violin at the Korean Presbyterian Church. Its new academy places a heavy emphasis on music, using it as a universal language.
    Photo by Jay Bailey.
    enlarge photo

It's not even 10 on a Saturday morning, but the Korean Presbyterian Church is a beehive of activity.

At the end of one building, three young adults are bowing the strains of "Baa Baa Black Sheep" on violins. On the other end, a handful of kindergarten-age students are practicing their Korean alphabet and vowels.

On the second floor of an adjoining building, several young people and adults are piping out notes on flutes. Downstairs, snacks are being prepared for the busy students while pungent Asian vegetables are stewing in a soup being prepared for the following day.

The students all are enrolled in the Chattanooga Christian Academy, a newly minted school of music, language and culture at the church in Rossville, Ga.

"We're always searching for a way to serve the Lord," says So Young Ko, a member of the church. "It's funny how God has put our certain talents together in a small community."

The 15-week program -- the cost is $150 for 15 lessons -- is just the first the congregation hopes to offer its member families and the community.

"We have a lot of talented people around here," says the Rev. Andrew Moon, pastor of the church for six years. "We want to share the kind of gifts we have with each other, but it's also a good source of outreach."

He had been considering such a program for a while when one of his former students, Daekeun Park, arrived from North Carolina with the experience of having taught in a similar program.

With Park on board as director, the academy opened earlier this year and offers instruction in violin, flute, guitar, music and culture, and in Korean, Chinese and English languages.

Andrew and Eunsuk Tudor live in Ooltewah and are not members of the Korean Presbyterian Church but received a letter about the academy because she is a native of Korea. Their children, daughter Leah, 8, and son Sean, 5, take three courses each Saturday -- Korean, violin and music/culture -- and also get snacks and lunch.

They say both children are enjoying the courses, but add that their daughter may be profiting more because she has twice spent a month in Korea with her mother.

"Another language may help their thinking, help them process information," Andrew Tudor says.

"It's a good benefit for us," his wife adds.

Church member Tracy Park's daughter Reyna, 5, is taking Korean, Chinese and music/culture. And while Park is glad for the opportunity, she wonders whether her daughter is mature enough to be motivated by the classes.

"I don't want to push her to do something," she says. "I want her to love to listen and enjoy it first. If she's into it, I want her to learn it."

Daekeun Park, who teaches advanced Korean in addition to his duties as director, says the academy's "goal is to encourage children to find their talents.

Kiran Park, who compares her music/culture classes to kindergarten in Korea, says her students -- all under 5 -- learn the Korean language, songs and crafts such as origami.

"They like singing and dancing and paperwork," she says.

Minjeong Won, a church member and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga graduate student in orchestra, teaches violin to seven students in two age groups. She even borrowed violins from UTC so no one had to buy them.

In her homeland of Korea, she says, she instructed more than 500 children on how to play the instrument with the idea "to make them interested, but don't push them."

Flute instructor Minsun Shin was previously a paid teacher of the woodwind instrument in Korea and Los Angeles. Her volunteer work, she says, "is a ministry for the glory of God."

Ko says he wasn't a fan when the church first began discussing opening an academy.

"I wasn't really for it," he says. "I thought it was more important to focus on the gospel itself. When I saw how this thing was coming together, I thought, 'This is good.'"

Now, Ko thinks he might like to get in on the action if the academy can find a teacher.

"I really wanted to learn the saxophone," he says.

However, he says, laughing, "some [people probably wish] I could take voice lessons."

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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