Hello, students! How are you spending your summer vacation? Some of you may be working hard in part-time jobs, while others may be concentrating on enhancing your skills for better employment opportunities by studying languages or doing extracurricular activities such as internships and volunteer work.
For this summer, how about choosing special extracurricular activities to find dreams and share your vision? Here is an introduction to Choi Ka-Hee, a third year student of Chung-Ang University and a student mentor of CJ Donors Camp’s Dream Building Creativity School.
A new dream began from the moment when another dream was over
▲ Hello, I’m Choi Ka-Hee, a student mentor at CJ Donors Camp’s Dream Building Creativity School.
When Choi Ka-Hee was nine years old, she could already sing all the songs of The Phantom of the Opera within just one week after seeing the musical. This was thanks to her talent and love for opera and musicals.
As her singing ability became widely known through the popular user created contents (UCC) she posted to the internet, she even appeared on TV as an opera genius. The girl who’s most happy when singing a song has gone step by step to reach her dream.
Choi won prizes in many competitions when she was at Seoul Arts High School, and finally entered Chung-Ang University to study vocal music. Then, in 2013, she received a judgment like a bolt from the blue.
How does it feel to hear a judgment saying “your dream cannot come true” while you move forward to the dream you believe to be realized? And have you never thought of other dreams at the time?
A vocal fold nodule is the reason Choi got a judgment saying “no more singing”. She couldn’t sing on a high note any longer, and then, the way was lost. Even after working on developing her voice, it was not enough to become a soprano.
“I was in a difficult situation that I had to stop my efforts for my single goal and make a life plan from scratch. Fortunately, my voice was recovered through medical treatments, but I still cannot be on a stage as a singer.”
“One day, I decided to cheer up. But, the next day, I fell into despair. In the meantime, I saw an online wanted ad for a student mentor of CJ Donors Camp’s Dream Building Creativity School.”
▲ New challenges with Dream Building Creativity School!
At that time, I had lost confidence, even after recovering from vocal nodules. I just wanted to find the joy of singing again by spending time with children in the school.”
CJ Donors Camp’s Dream Building Creativity School is a social contribution program to foster underprivileged children as future talents by using CJ Group’s food and culture businesses infrastructure. This is a new type of extracurricular activity, and is operated for five months from the beginning of the summer vacation for about 200 middle school students interested in five sectors (music, musical, fashion, cooking and film).
Unlike existing external programs, university student mentors enrolled on the program are assigned to the related sector based on their major and specialty to undertake mentoring of teenagers for cultural creation. These mentors and mentees prepare contents for Dream Stage, and build relationships by teaching and learning.
The first-class filled with tears
▲ “With tears, we united together in the first class.”
In the summer of 2015, the first students that Choi Ka-Hee met as a mentor were seven girls from Inhwa Girls Middle School in Incheon. The first meeting was awkward since they didn’t know how to connect with each other, even though they all wanted to sing a song.
“In the first class of the school, I just revealed my story, instead of talking about music. That was because I think communication is more important than music.”
“I had many difficulties in my adolescence, similar to them. But, it was difficult for me to just say ‘I understand you’ or ‘I know your difficulty.’ That is why I wanted to have conversation with them by telling my story first.”
“They listened to my story, and started to break down in tears. Later they even sobbed on their desks, and I also choked up. My first class ended up filled with tears.”
“An unspoken bond of sympathy developed between us, and the ice was broken. Since the day, we had moved forward to achieve one goal.”
The students who had never received a regular musical education by the time first learned how to make a sound properly. For this, Choi began a lesson on relaxing their body based on the drama classes she had learned previously in school. This is because relaxing and using the body properly help performers make better sound of voice.
In Choi’s special lessons, they made different gestures by drawing lots, and paired up to perform role-plays. These class contents led the students to loosen up and enjoy.
The moment of immersion is the moment of healing
▲ The more practice, the better voice
As singing lessons continued, students aimed to achieve higher goals and follow greater dreams. Accordingly, an aggressive student was assigned to brighten up on stage, and another who sings well was given a solo.
In the early days, the students sang with no confidence and in a low voice. But, Choi recorded every single song and let the students listen for continuous practice. This process increased their awareness and helped build their confidence until they were able to belt out a song.
With the upcoming concert at Dream Stage, Choi has devoted herself to training for about three hours three times a week. She also focused on helping mind-control, as well as singing lessons.
Choi hoped them to truly enjoy the onstage performance. She thinks that the most important thing for education is the passion of the educator. That’s why she believes that the students’ singing could be improved related to the time she spent with them.
▲ Choi Ka-Hee’s positive teaching for the Dream Stage
“I forgot about looking cool or showing off my position as a teacher and focused instead on being someone who could relate with and support the students. So, I think the time we spent together with tears and laughs was also a time for healing them as well as me.”
“To prepare Dream Stage, we needed to have last-minute practice for about five to six hours three times a week. It was so hard. But, we were able to immerse ourselves in singing and relate to each other through song.”
▲ Final practices while staying together when Dream Stage was around the corner!
On 2015 Dream Stage, when the students sang “I dreamed a dream”, one of the original songs from the soundtrack of Les Miserables, filling the venue with their voices, Choi was moved to tears.
“Performing on the Dream Stage might not in fact be able to change anything given that there are such practical challenges involved in the students going on to become professional singers. I set up a new goal to be a performance producer, leaving behind my past difficulty with vocal cords. But, I never imagined what difficulties I should overcome for the future.”
“Of course, the Dream Stage was an amazing experience that the students and I will never forget because it was an opportunity for us to believe in the saying that, ‘dreams do come true.’”
▲ Taking pictures with the students of Dream Building Creativity School
Mentoring at CJ Donors Camp’s Dream Building Creativity School was a turning point in the lives of Choi Ka-Hee and her students. It was so much more than just another extracurricular activity.
“When we met for the first time, my students sang in hushed voices without confidence and I had lost my own voice with no idea of what to do. We seemed to be in such a similar position.”
“By moving forward to one goal with my students, I was able to recover my confidence and realize that there are many things that I can do well, even though I have lost my voice. I felt an empathy with my students who had started listening to their heart.”
“I think Dream Building Creativity School is an opportunity to change not only the lives of teenager mentees, but also the lives of the mentors as well, as my story shows.”
Spread your wings toward a higher dream and greater goal
Choi joined the 2016 program as a mentor with a plan to teach children in musical sector. Choi has a new dream of being a performance producer, with musicals an area where she can carve her way.
Like students, Choi will spread her wings toward a higher goal again.
▲ We support your move to a higher goal!
Not only that, she is working towards a better future in a range of ways, including working as a representative and director of performance of FOY, an opera group composed of university students for the popularization of opera. FOY has been selected for Creative Minds, one of CJ Foundation’s support programs for culture creation, to showcase young opera to the public. In addition, she acts as a conductor of Happiness Up (the united choir of teenagers in Incheon) through a talent donation program.
Although Choi might once have thrown away her dream of one day standing on stage, her wings are spreading wide to bring her talent and passion to where it’s needed.
“I am thankful for realizing who I am and what I want to do, while working as a mentor at CJ’s Dream Building Creativity School. I am so happy to leave the past behind and find out places where I can provide help in my own way.”
“I will do my best to offer mentoring this year to help students in the school realize their talents. I will let them grow and receive healing energy by the vocal harmonies they achieve with each other.”
Showing a smile which is as warm and bright as sunshine in summer, Choi Ka-Hee works her way with sincerity, and her future will always be fruitful and joyful.