Korean Drumming and Creative Music

Jin Hi Kim, Director of Korean Drumming and Creative Music

Wesleyan Korean Drumming Ensemble is among one of the few Korean drumming ensemble courses offered in U.S. colleges. The Wesleyan Korean Drumming Ensemble has become the Korean Drumming and Creative Music class. Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music Jin Hi Kim is the instructor.  Initiated by Joo Im Moon, ’03, a Freeman Asian Scholar from South Korea, the ensemble started as an informal student group in 2001. Joo Im had some p’ungmulnori lessons in Korea before coming to Wesleyan and became the instructor for the group. The informal student group met with great enthusiasm from Wesleyan students. One year later, Joo Im acquired the support from the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies and brought back a few musical instruments from Korea. She then formed the Samulnori Student Forum in Fall 2002, with Professor Su Zheng, then the Chair of the East Asian Studies Program, as Faculty Advisor. A total of 15 students signed up for the class, which not only practiced drumming, but also studied the cultural roots of samulnori.

Korean Drum Other

Joo Im invited her teacher, Sang-min Yook, a Korean drumming musician living in New York City and the founder and artistic director of Nori Company, to give the group further instructions. Quickly, the drumming ensemble became very popular on campus; its concerts took place at the end of every semester. It also provided accompaniment for Joo Im’s honor thesis/concert project in Spring 2003.

Committed to keep the ensemble going, after graduation Joo Im searched and was successfully awarded a two-year grant from Korean Cultural Service New York. The Korean Drumming Ensemble was officially established in Fall 2003 and 15 students joined the ensemble. The number quickly rose to 25 in the spring semester. With further support from the Center for East Asian Studies under the direction of Professor Steve Angle, the ensemble purchased more instruments from Korea and is now able to accommodate students’ demand. After the initial two years, Professor Su Zheng secured another two-year period grant for the ensemble from Wesleyan’s Freeman Asian/Asian American Studies Initiatives. In spring 2007, Professor Su Zheng obtained the important commitment of the Music Department (then chaired by Professor Sumarsam) in funding the Korean drumming ensemble as a regularly offered course beginning from fall 2007.

In 2004, members of the Wesleyan ensemble received workshops from Master Kim Duk Soo, founder and creator of the famous Samulnori from South Korea; they also participated in Nori Company’s performances in New York. The ensemble’s performances have drawn a large crowd from Wesleyan and beyond.