‘Nobody’ to center stage: Violinist finds home at Baylor School of Music
By Taylor Rexrode
Artists have their own stories of struggles and overcoming obstacles to achieve greatness. For one Baylor student, it wasn’t just hours of practice. His hardships came in a different form: no car, no ID and no home.
Jacksonville, Fla. master’s candidate David Song moved to the United States from South Korea when he was 12 years old so he could study music. He lived with his aunt, uncle and cousin while his parents stayed behind.
Not long after arriving to the States, Sone said he began to have disagreements and tension with his relatives.
“They noticed I was becoming more Americanized than being Korean,” Song said. “I started speaking more English, and I was hanging out with more American friends than Korean friends. I don’t think they really liked it. They thought I was forgetting my heritage.”
Song’s home problems escalated to a point where he would relieve his stress through musical practice, sometimes until late hours of the night.
In middle and high school, Song won several competitions, which led to him getting a full-ride scholarship to Stetson University.
But after his freshman year at Stetson, Song was kicked out of his aunt and uncle’s home and left to fend for himself.
“The sad part is I had visa problems, so I had no car or no ID or nothing,” Song said. “I was literally nobody in America.”
Song did not tell his parents about being kicked out of the house. Instead, he walked around Fort Meyers, Fla., thinking about his situation.
“I was thinking because that was all I could do,” Song said.
After a long day of lugging around his suitcase and violin, Song called his violin teacher Reiko Niiya, concertmaster with the Southwest Florida Symphony. She picked him up and took him to her home.
“She rescued me and since then I have had an American family,” Song said. “Can you imagine being in a foreign country without an ID, with nothing but one suitcase and a violin? That’s a really scary feeling.”
Song said he has not spoken to his aunt and uncle since the incident, but he is not angry about what happened.
“I don’t know that I will ever be able to talk to them,” Song said. “I’m not as mad as I used to be because I’m still grateful for how they let me live with them for my high school years.”
After graduating from Stetson, Song was recruited by Baylor to audition for the School of Music.
“They liked who I was and they liked my life story,” Song said. “They saw a lot of potential in me as a young musician. Since then I’ve been working really hard as a graduate student.”
Dr. Bruce Berg, violin professor in instrumental studies and Song’s mentor, said Song is more than just a talented violin player and student.
“He’s a really great person,” Berg said. “He’s one of the best graduate students that Baylor has to offer. Students come to him and ask him questions about violin technique and music, and he’s very free with his time.”
Song said he hopes to continue working with students after graduating in May. But before graduation, he will perform his final recital at 6:30 p.m. today in Roxy Grove Hall. He will perform with a full orchestra to music from Vivaldi and Mozart because he said he wanted to challenge himself.
Though his parents and American family will not be able to attend the recital, Song said he is happy to have his friends support him.
“I’m very grateful for the people I know and what I have,” Song said. “I especially want to thank Dr. Berg. I never felt this much love from a teacher. I can never express enough thanks to him.”
Song is also grateful for his past, even the moments where he felt like he had nothing. He said he wants to use his past as a way to find meaning and breadth in his music and as a catalyst into his future.
“The past is the past,” Song said. “What I’m excited for is tomorrow. I just have to think about tomorrow or next week or next month.”