Bringing an energetic and positive spirit into the New Year, we are honoured to talk to Danny Koo, a Korean American violinist, to share his journey to perfecting classical music.
“Everyone is different, and classical music accepts and thrives on that difference.”
Who is Danny Koo?
As a professional violinist and music activist, Danny Koo’s rich profile includes collaborations with Kim Kashkashian, Jaime Lerado, Andres Diaz, Roberto Diaz and various talented musicians, while regularly performs with leading ensembles including ECCO, DITTO, Kafka Quartet and several others. Furthermore, Danny also participates in high-profile music festivals such as Transatlantic Encounters at Snape Maltings, Rockport Chamber Music Festival, Music@Menlo and much more.
With his outgoing personality, Danny has been profiled on numerous Korean Television programs, and printed media. He has given lectures in Korea about his life stories and shared his creativity at two TEDxBeaconStreet conferences. Believing that music can create changes to the world, Danny is devoted to giving back to the community, and takes up education responsibilities and regularly participates in community projects, from raising charity for local food pantry to sharing his music with audiences from the shelter.
On Classical Music…
DK – Danny Koo
T – Tordney
T: When did you start learning violin?
DK: I started learning the violin at the age of 6. My folks and I used to live in a very small 1 bedroom apartment and whenever my uncle would come to visit, he would practice his viola. I fell in love with the sonority of the string instrument and asked my mom if I could learn the violin!
T: Why do you choose classical music as your career?
DK: I chose fairly late compared to others in my profession. I loved learning and always played the violin as a hobby. The summer before my last year of high school, I went to this incredible festival called ‘Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts’ (a 5-week program for music, creative writing, acting). Here was when I really felt the power of the arts and how the arts could have a tangible effect on the world. I was hooked and I’ve been going strong ever since.
T: You said that classical music has the power to change people’s life. How did classical music change you? What are some of the most important and beautiful lessons classical music has taught you?
DK: I was never a social butterfly in high school… I think I always felt a sense of insecurity in my identity as a Korean American and as a short guy that likes music in a school system that rewarded athleticism over the arts. But every summer I would go to a classical music festival and I always loved the ‘Danny’ that I was at these festivals; I felt comfortable being in my own skin. These were chamber music festivals where around 12 of us would all take turns playing with each other in preparation for concerts at the end of the 3 weeks. I learned how to listen to others, how to encourage my peers, how to feel vulnerable, and how to get and also give inspiration to my fellow musicians. Classical music is such a personal thing because there aren’t lyrics and there isn’t a story. Listeners have the opportunity to write their own lyrics, and make their own stories. Everyone is different, and classical music accepts and thrives on that difference.
T: What is practicing like for you? What have you learned from it?
DK: I love practicing because I am a big advocate on becoming one’s best self every single day. I love the patience it requires and the endless creativity. I think every musician has their own way of productive practicing. I love to sing phrases and bass lines while I practice the violin because this helps me vocalize the most natural phrasing and hear the over-arching harmonic progressions in the music!
T: Through your music journey, who would you like to thank?
DK: My parents for never pushing me, and my teachers for always believing in me.
T: Your violin has to be one of your best companions. Can you tell us about the violin you play on?
DK: I play on a Postiglione violin made in Italy in 1902!
For long walks…
T: Is it correct that you like to take long walks?
DK: I love taking long walks. Gives me a chance to enjoy and be inspired by nature and my environment!
T: What discoveries have you made during those walks? Where do you like to walk?
DK: The reason I love Boston and Toronto has to be the walkability of these two cities. I like the spontaneity of walking wherever my feet take me.
T: What was 2018 like for you? Can you share with us your New Year’s Resolution?
DK: 2018 was an epic year of hustle and change. I’ve never had as many concerts as I did in 2018 and I’m incredibly grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had so far to share my music and my thoughts. I’m excited for 2019 because my calendar is already booked through July!! So excited for all the music I have to perform and all the various projects that are slowly coming into fruition. My resolution is to keep working hard, always be grateful, and to never stop dreaming.
Thoughts and TakeawaysWe would like to give thanks for Danny to share his experience with us. His story of how classical music changed his life is heartening. We admire how his passion and commitment for the art motivates him to make graduate and concrete steps towards his goal. Striving for perfection is a goal for every artist and craftsmen, and both Danny and Tordney are devoting our hearts and souls towards. Despite the hustle and hardships, we resonate with Danny that all need to take long walks to rest our minds, listen to our hearts, and keep our eyes open for small moments of joy that build up to become life.
We hope you are inspired by Danny’s sharing as we are, to be dedicated to your passions and enjoy the small wonders in everyday life.
Danny's official website: http://www.dannykooviolin.com/
Edited by Priscilla Li