December 2019
Jennifer Crusco
Communications Assistant

Musician Uses Gayageum to Help Others Appreciate Korean Culture

Demarest, NJ: Musician Erin Choi of Cliffside Park has a singular quest: She wants to connect people to Korean culture through the gayageum, a zither-like string instrument.

“I enjoy bringing music to other people because, no matter where you go, music is a universal language,” the Academy of the Holy Angels junior noted. “Music connects all cultures across the world, and I enjoy feeling like I am connecting other people to my culture.”

Choi and her fellow gayageumists from GEMiNY (Gayageum Ensemble Music in New York) recently shared their craft with 3,000 people at the Dallas Korean Festival in Carrollton, Texas.

“We had the chance to perform alongside many other performers such as the K-pop groups NeonPunch and Snuper,” Choi explained. The festival is an annual event that includes multiple activities and performances intended to educate others about Korean culture.

“My ensemble and I were very lucky to be able to perform there,” she said.

Choi studies with Rami Seo, an accomplished gayageum artist who founded GEMiNY. Through this group, Choi connected with other gayageum players in the New York Metropolitan area.

“I play a 25-string gayageum, which is different from the traditional 12-string gayageum,” she noted. “The 25-string gayageum was developed from the 12-string gayageum. More strings mean that there are fewer spaces in between notes, allowing for clearer sounds.”

Choi has been playing for nearly five years. She explained, “I decided to start playing the gayageum because I felt that I could hear the history behind the instrument and the history of the country that has always shown great resilience over many years: Korea.”

At Holy Angels, Choi studies with Instrumental Music Director Mariann Annecchino. Choi plays gayageum in the Academy Orchestra and adapts the parts for her instrument, so she is an integral member of the ensemble.

In the spring of 2019, she took AHA’s bespoke course in critical thinking at Oxford University. She is a member of the AHA Cross-Country Team, displayed her drawings in the Academy’s main lobby, and assisted with the Mystic Sand science demo at a 2018 Open House. She has performed on the gayageum at International Night, Open House, and during Music in Our Schools Month. This busy student is also diligent about maintaining her excellent GPA.

Choi encourages more people to take time to listen closely to gayageum music and appreciate the effort that goes into making every evocative sound.

Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious high school serves young women from a broad spectrum of cultural and religious backgrounds. Over time, thousands of women have passed through AHA’s portals. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics. The Academy’s current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.

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