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'Beethoven Virus' Fails to Spread

2009/02/19 Source

Junggu District Office's Dream for Wind Orchestra Shattered

By Kwon Mee-yoo
Staff Reporter

A Seoul ward office's dream to operate a wind orchestra has been crushed by district council members and a judge who think funds spent on music doesn't amount to money well spent during this time of economic hardship.

Junggu Wind Orchestra's goal to put the mega-hit, music-themed TV drama "Beethoven Virus" into practice was sqaushed by the district council and the Supreme Court.

The first wind orchestra founded by a local district government, Junggu Wind Orchestra was an ambitious project the Seoul Jung-gu Office launched in May 2007. "Beethoven Virus", a hit drama aired on MBC last year, created an amateur orchestra boom, but the Junggu Wind Orchestra was already operational before the drama was popular.

"An orchestra requires many members and costs a lot to maintain. However, a wind orchestra only needs a few members and a smaller budget. That's why we created a wind orchestra", said Cho Sung-sam of the Jung-gu District Office. "Other local governments also launched cultural organizations in accordance with cultural characteristics of the region".

For example, Anseong in Gyeonggi Province has Anseong Municipal Namsadang Baudeogi Pungmuldan, and Namwon in North Jeolla Province has Namwon Municipal Orchestra for Korean Traditional Music.

Consisting of 16 members, the band has performed 34 times and drawn 28,000 audience members in the last 15 months. In addition to their regular concerts at Chungmu Art Hall, the orchestra has played at various outdoor stages, presenting wind music to the masses.

However, the Jung-gu District Council saw it differently. "The orchestra was not cost-efficient nor to the benefit of citizens", a council official said.

The district council decided to withdraw the ordinance of the local orchestra last August. Jung Dong-il, the chief of Jung-gu District Office, appealed, but the council passed the cancellation again in November. The district office filed a suit with the Supreme Court regarding the dissolution of the local orchestra.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the district council. The court said the district council has a wide range of freedom in the issuing and revoking of regulations. Its ruling said the Arts Promotion Act, the Jung-gu Office's theoretical basis to keep the orchestra, does not specify the city council's duty to have the wind orchestra.

"We accept the decision of the Supreme Court, but we still feel sorry for the judgment of the council and court", Cho said. "Culture is a long term project and the ward council was impatient to discharge the orchestra instead of giving them more time".

The orchestra officially disbanded last July, and its members have suffered from the unexpected dismissal.

"I play the euphonium, a tenor-voiced brass instrument. This instrument is little used in general orchestras, but becomes a solo instrument in wind orchestras, so I auditioned for this orchestra, not knowing that it would be dismissed in such a short time", Lim Jong-wan, a former member of Junggu Wind Orchestra, said. "Some members of the ensemble studied abroad, but they missed other auditions because they thought we belonged to the Jung-gu's orchestra. We had to find other ways to make a living and it was painful. Sometimes, I feel miserably about living as a musician in Korea".
Junggu Wind Orchestra plays on an outdoor stage in this file photo. The orchestra, organized by Seoul Jung-gu Office, was disbanded by district council members and a Supreme Court judge.
/ Courtesy of Seoul Jung-gu Office

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