From South Korea to Texas: Graduate student paves her own legacy in music

Mina Ahn, a member of the Baylor Wind Ensemble, moved from South Korea to pursue her passion in music. Photo courtesy of Mina Ahn

By Caitlyne Nguyen | Reporter

In the clarinet section of the Baylor Wind Ensemble, one student is a little further from home than most. Mina Ahn, a second-year graduate student, joins the School of Music from South Korea.

Ahn serves as a graduate associate, assisting ensemble directors with lesson plans and connecting with undergraduate members of the Wind Ensemble. Having played the clarinet since middle school, Ahn brings many years of experience and adds to the culture of the program.

“Her background and her great knowledge of learning and playing clarinet in her home country just brings that perspective to our studio, which is very nice,” Ran Kampel, assistant professor of clarinet, said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to have more diversity and just be aware of other people’s culture and celebrate that.”

In addition to the rigor of her master’s studies, Ahn said being almost 7,000 miles away from home presents another challenge for her.

“This is the longest period that I’ve lived far away from my family,” Ahn said. “So this is a very new experience for me, and sometimes I miss my family a lot.”

Although her family is thousands of miles away, Ahn has found friends and a community to ease her homesickness. She said being around other international students has allowed her to connect with people who understand what it’s like to not be from the United States. She said one international student in particular helped her learn both English and American culture.

“It’s helped me a lot to adjust here,” Ahn said. “I feel that I’m not alone. She helped me a lot, and if I had something that I could help her with, I did. It makes us [feel] like we’re not alone, and we have a family here [through] that.”

Ahn is unsure of what she wants to do after her time at Baylor, but she said she knows she would like to stay in the United States for her career in order to pursue her passions for both playing and teaching.

“Sometimes I want to be a teacher, and sometimes I want to be a performer playing in an orchestra,” Ahn said. “[But] it’s very hard to find a job, especially since I’m an international student and a foreigner in this country,”

As a graduate associate in the School of Music, Ahn has had the opportunity to teach clarinet classes, hold private lessons and perform as a member of the Wind Ensemble. Being a non-native English speaker has been eye-opening not only for Ahn but also for fellow clarinet performers like Fort Worth junior Dawson Huynh.

“Having somebody who doesn’t speak English as their first language makes it even more important for the students to communicate through music,” Huynh said. “Music is a universal language. We can all relate and experience similar things through it.”

Ahn has been able to take her passions to the next level by moving to a foreign country and creating her own story.

“She’s a wonderful young woman who is so passionate about music and about learning,” Kampel said. “She’s on a mission to just learn and grow and be a better person, which is an inspiration to all of us. She’s such a good force in the clarinet studio and the School of Music.”