Country of Origin : Seoul, Korea
Occupation : Opera singer, vocal trainer, music and Korean language teacher
Years in China : 17
How did your China journey begin?
My first time in China was 18 years ago. I visited Xiamen as a tourist with my mum, my aunt and her daughters. Not many tourists came here at the time, and everything was rather cheap. We had booked 3 rooms in Mandarin Hotel but they gave us an upgrade to stay at whole Vila. Yes, we got a 5 stars vila all to ourselves! That was so beautiful, like a wonderland. An unforgettable first impression.
我第一次来中国是在 18 年前。我和妈妈、姨妈和她的女儿来厦门旅游。当时来这里的游客不多，而且东西都相当便宜。我们在悦华酒店订了 3 个房间，但他们给我们升级到别墅房。没错，我们住进了一套五星级别墅！那里美得就像一个仙境。厦门给我留下了难忘的第一印象。
Before coming here, I did my Master’s degree in Korea and I spent 3 years in Bergamo, Italy, where I got a vocalist degree. I had heard that Xiamen was a musical city, with Gulangyu, the piano island… Many even call it “the Venice of China”! And completing my studies in Italy, I came here and I wandered along Huangdao Road, which reminded me of the very beautiful coastal highway that goes from Italy to France. Then, I visited Xiamen University with its beautiful campus with the help of my tour guide… I fell in love with this place.
来厦门之前，我在韩国获得了硕士学位，然后在意大利的贝加莫待了 3 年，在那里我得到了一个声乐学位。我听说厦门是一个音乐之城，有号称“钢琴岛”的鼓浪屿……很多人甚至称它为“中国的威尼斯”！在意大利完成学业后，我来到厦门，沿着环岛路闲逛，我想起了连接意大利到法国的那条非常美丽的沿海公路。然后，导游带领我参观了美丽的厦门大学……我爱上了这个地方。
Another reason why I chose to live in China was to stay closer to Korea. I chose not to settle in Italy, because my grandma on my mother’s side was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I had concerts programmed in Italy, like Puccini’s Madama Butterfly where I would sing as a soloist, but my grandma was everything to me. She raised me because my mum, a busy hotelier, did not have enough time to take care of me when I was a child. So, I chose Xiamen wholeheartedly, to be closer to Korea and to visit my grandma often.
What fascinates you about China or Xiamen?
China is my second hometown, soon I will have lived here for longer than I have in Korea!
I love Xiamen seaside, so I am always happy to enjoy the sea and the sun. I also love flowers and green trees that you can find here all year long. Xiamen is just a paradise. I work hard here, I have many things to do, but I am still happy, I feel like I am on holiday. And both people and the weather are so warm. There is a big international family here, and I am a member of it. On Huangdao Road I see the tourists drinking from coconuts, eating tropical fruits like mango and pineapple… It is lovely, this is my wonderland, I feel like a baby girl here.
Something I love about this place are the opportunities I have to be on stage here. Although classic opera stage performance is very limited, I cooperate with jazz bands and have plenty of other chances to perform. As a vocal trainer, I teach not only classical songs but also jazz and other styles. I used to love rock and heavy metal! But now I have come back to classic again, and I am learning tango songs in Spanish, I love them! I try my best at tango dancing as well!
Another great opportunity China has given me is teaching. I started teaching music to mostly Korean and foreign children, because Chinese music theory is different. I can play the piano, the recorder and the harmonica, and sing at the same time, that’s why I could start teaching foreign young learners.
Did you know an extended way to write music in China is numbered musical notation also known as “jianpu” (简谱 or simple sheet music)? Numbers, lines and dots are used to write down the notes and beats, and children learn music with different instruments like the “hulusi” (葫芦丝, curcubit or gourd flute, a reed-free wind instrument made out of pumpkin).
What is your unique China story?
I was a part-time member of the choir which performed Turandot in the Olympic Stadium in Beijing, staged by maestro director Zhang Yimou!
I can speak Italian, English and Korean, so when I moved to China, I thought to myself that if I also learned Chinese then I could do everything! Therefore, I decided to study Chinese in Xiamen University. After learning Chinese, I started to have plenty of opportunities to perform in Chinese! I joined the Minnan singing competition and got 3rd place!
Last year, I was invited to perform in the Chinese New Year Concert on Xiamen TV on which I performed the “Beautiful Xiamen” song. I was very touched and moved to have this privilege. For that occasion, I learned some classic songs in Chinese, I learned them all by heart! This was an extremely special occasion to me. I will cherish this memory for the rest of my life.
What I feel is unique for me here is that I never stop working! I have been doing my best from the beginning. When I got here, I first worked in a Korean school 1 day per week and then was teaching Korean and music part time. One day, a friend introduced me to a good contact who works on TV and I got to perform at very important concerts, like the Chinese new year concert I mentioned before. Furthermore, I met some friends in the culture department and we started arranging small Opera performances for government events, then I started teaching Korean children at the Korean weekend music school of the Embassy.
2 years ago I joined the competition Xiamen Travel Line organzied by the Xiamen Travel department, every year I am invited to the participate in it. I usually take part in plenty of video recordings like promotional videos for the school and two weeks ago, when Xiamen was in lockdown, I participated together with other friends in the Xiamen Jiayou video, it was a pleasure. I am always busy and so happy!
Also, China is the place where I can make my other dream come true. This dream was to help others as much as possible. I found a way to help was to make charity concerts raise money for organizations which help the orphans and the elderly in China and my friend introduced me to an opportunity. We first arranged a charity concert together with the Guanren community and people donated money to fund different associations in Xiamen. This concert with Guanren was repeated a few times. I am so glad that every year I have the chance to contribute in this and other ways like their charity markets.
From the bottom of my heart, I always dedicate every charity concert to my little sister, who passed away at a young age. She was very smart and we were very close, like friends. The devastating loss of my sister inspired me to help others. I am always grateful that my friends and family are healthy.
I am fortunate that I can work, help and share my luck with others, because some people really don’t have anything and they have not way to change their current situation. Gladly, the community here in Xiamen is very generous and, together, we make a better society. I always thank God, my friends, family and everybody for every opportunity we get to exchange culture, and share time. I am so happy to live in Xiamen.
To hear Hana’s precious voice, visit her WeChat Channel at Hannasingwiththeart.
想聆听 Hanna 美妙的歌声，请访问她的微信视频号：Hannasingwiththeart。
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