Paul Won Jin Cho won the Principal Clarinet audition in May. We are thrilled to have him join our orchestra. Recently we spent a little time getting to know Paul and wanted to share that conversation with you. Enjoy!
Why did you choose to become an orchestral musician, and why your particular instrument?
I remember getting ready for the audition for Seoul Youth Symphony Orchestra when I was in high school and I had to prepare excerpts from Beethoven 6th and 8th symphony. I got the recordings of Karajan and Frutwaengler and I remember being in awe of how magical it is to hear a symphony orchestra even from old recordings. The preparation led me to have much more desire to be in the orchestra and to be an orchestra musician.
What is it that you like about working as an orchestral musician?
Orchestral music is one of the most profound musical activities that a musician can create. In order to bring the best of it, one must understand their own part, the score, the people you are playing with, and the audience whom you are playing for. It is not an easy job.
Where did you study and who do you consider to be your primary teachers?
I studied at Korean National University of Arts and Seoul National University for my bachelor and masters degree. My primary teacher there was Dong-Jin Kim. I came to US and studied with Yehuda Gilad at University of Southern California, and after that I move to the East Coast at Yale School of Music to study with David Shifrin.
Do you have a favorite humorous musical moment to share?
I was performing with colleagues in the John Adams Chamber Symphony in New York City. It is wicked hard and has 9 soloists. It uses a synthesizer that goes through the computer to create special sound
It was a 1 pm afternoon performance. At noon that very day, there was an automatic password change to the whole venue and so the computer settings would not work. For some reason, they could not figure out password. So the synthesizer didn’t work properly.
The concert time came and we waited onstage. It was webcast, and everyone was wondering what would happen. All of the players were starting to pass around microphone and players were telling jokes to pass the time.
We ended up not performing it because the Adams was copyrighted material and we didn’t want to get into trouble having it performed without original synthesizer in it.
Do you have a musical highlight to share? A moment when you were truly moved?
Playing Nimrod from Enigma Variations always gives me goosebumps as I played it as a theme/farewell song for an unforgettable summer orchestral festival I had as a member of Asian Youth Orchestra.
I also cannot forget playing Brahms, and Robert Fuchs clarinet quintets with my dear friends.
What is something you think people in the audience might find surprising about you?
I might look like a college student, but I have a 7-year-old daughter.
What do you do with your time outside of performing with the Binghamton Philharmonic?
During the season, I follow Dodger baseball. I play with ensembles such as Decoda and Quintet of the Americas, which are based in NYC. I love dining time with my daughter and my wife.
You recently won an audition with the Binghamton Philharmonic. What was that experience like for you? Did it feel different from other audition experiences you have had?
I was happy that the audition lasted for a day. Many orchestral auditions take multiple days to process. It is my first audition that I won, so I still cannot describe how I felt after hearing the result.
Do you have a strict regimen in preparing for an audition? Any special mindset?
Prepare as much as you can, and just be yourself on the stage. Hopefully the committee would like your playing, but if not, the orchestra is not for you.
If you teach music students, can you talk about that experience? What engages you in the process?
I like to hear students, boost their strengths by encouraging and work on their weaknesses by experimenting with different practice exercises.