Collaboration Between Students at William Paterson University and Students at Cheongju University in South Korea Results in Beautiful Music, New Friendships, and Cross-Cultural Appreciation

Viviana Kaszubski '24 performs with Professor June Marano-Murray accompanying on piano

An interdisciplinary, cross-cultural collaboration between college students on opposite sides of the globe is creating an international buzz.

Twenty-five students at William Paterson University presented a concert of Korean-language songs on their New Jersey campus recently, thanks to the virtual tutelage they received from students at Cheongju University in South Korea. None of the American students are native Korean speakers.

The concert, “Korean-Language Song Evening,” was live-streamed and posted on YouTube, where it has earned close to 3,000 views in the past two weeks. (WATCH THE CONCERT HERE.) The performance was also covered by more than a dozen South Korean media outlets, who lauded the event for expanding the cultural and artistic views of everyone involved—a sentiment shared by students and faculty at both universities.

Over the course of the fall semester, a group of William Paterson University (WP) music majors studying voice connected with students at Cheongju University in South Korea who are majoring in Korean Language education. Through a series of virtual meetings, the WP students learned the diction, interpretation, and poetic understanding of the Korean songs they were assigned, which provided an opportunity for Cheongju students to both improve their instructional skills as Korean language teachers and practice their English.

The result was a remarkable performance that “speaks for itself,” says WP professor of educational leadership and professional studies Carrie Hong, noting how “deeply moved and inspired” audiences from both countries have been.

The performance project was made possible by a three-year grant to William Paterson University from the Korean Studies Promotion Service, which was secured and is being executed by WP Professors Hong, Keumjae Park (sociology and criminal justice), Angie Yoo (communication), and Hye Eun Choi of New York University Shanghai. The “SEED Grant”— Seed for Engagement, Education, and Development of Korean Studies at William Paterson University— has also led to the development of a Korean Studies minor at WP, a summer study abroad scholarship program to South Korea, and an official academic exchange agreement with Kongju National University in South Korea.

“I’m really glad that I go to a school where projects as awesome as this one are funded by grants,” said WP student and vocalist Scarlette A. Horvath. Horvath, who performed a song by Nan-pa Hong, lauded the project and her professors, overall, for helping her and her classmates “grow as musicians, and as people.” 

Similarly, Cheongju student-tutor Jumi Lee pointed to not only the academic benefits of the project, but the social and cultural ones.

“I was given an opportunity to foster a friendship, as our interactions were not just about tutoring the Korean language but about sharing our stories and emotions,” Lee says. “In addition, as a native speaker of Korean, I was very proud to be a part of this meaningful project that helped my friend learn my language. The performance, which was the result of the efforts of many students and faculty, was truly impressive.”

Among those faculty are WP voice professor Christopher Herbert, who also performed a Korean language song during the concert thanks to the tutelage he received from Cheongju Professor Geon-ah Choi and fellow WP voice professor and native Korean speaker Jee Hyun Lim. Lim curated the pieces for the concert program and performed the evening’s closing number, donned in traditional Korean attire.

“I know of no collaboration like this at any other university in the United States. Because of this cross-cultural exchange and our presentation of Korea’s rich musical heritage, we have made significant strides in decolonizing the field of vocal arts,” Herbert says. Moreover, Hong adds, the project demonstrates the possibility for educators to “internationalize college classrooms with interactive and interdisciplinary collaboration.”

Cheongju University Collaboration Viviana Kaszubski '24 performs with Professor June Marano-Murray accompanying on piano
Cheongju University Collaboration William Paterson vocalists, pianists, and professors gather for a photo after the Korean-Language Song Evening concert.
Cheongju University Collaboration Zoom screenshot of a tutoring session between WP student Zoe Vandergast and CJ student Yoon-no Choi
Cheongju University Collaboration Students at Cheongju University watch the concert livestream