Dr. Imgyu Kang, the choir director at Jones College, is from South Korea, but he moved to the United States 25 years ago to pursue a career in music.
“I was born in South Korea. I lived in a mountain village, which was a very rural area,” Kang said. “We didn’t get electricity until I was in fifth grade. Since I grew up in the countryside, I played with lots of animals and nature. I think I grew up with a good atmosphere.”
Kang said there are many differences in the culture of the U.S. vs. Korea.
“Korea has public transportation, unlike here, where you have to have a car,” Kang said. “The weather is different too. Korea’s summer is very hot in the rainy season. Winter is very cold, and comes with a lot of snow, but I like snow. Spring and Fall are beautiful.”
Kang explained that there aren’t as many opportunities in Korea for jobs, which seems the opposite in the United States.
“In Korea, if you aren’t considered good enough, you can’t get a job,” he said. “We work hard and diligently, so if you aren’t diligent, you do not get a job. Here, (the U.S.), you can get a job easier than in Korea. We call (the U.S.) an opportunity country.”
Before Jones, Kang was director of the choir at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for four years. His family lives in Georgia, and the 14-hour one-way trip was becoming too much for him to make. Jones is only a six-hour drive to Georgia, so he can go home most weekends.
“I applied for the (Jones College) job, and then I got it,” Kang said. “I was very excited because the dean of this department and the president sang in the choir when they were here as students. Whenever I interviewed here, they said they liked me and loved my energy. Afterward, he said that he needed my energy here to build up this department to be bigger and famous.”
Kang received his doctorate in conducting at the University of Alabama and his master’s degree in conducting at Georgia State University. Kang said he enjoys teaching students on the college level.
“I try to understand what they think. I try to understand their circumstances because I was a student once,” he said. “I know I should think about their situations. I love to teach at the college level because I feel young, and my students feel like friends even if they don’t think that.”
Choir member Bralynn Newell said, “He’s a great teacher, and he really cares about his students. He does a lot for us.”
When Kang is home in Georgia on the weekends, he directs his church’s choir and practices with the choir to prepare for the upcoming Sunday.
“When I get home, usually at two or three in the afternoon, I get one to two hours to rest and eat, and then I drive back here (Jones College),” Kang said. “Usually, I have no free time, but if I have free time, I like to do things with my family. I also like walking and hiking. I love walking in the big park by my house in Georgia with my wife.”
Kang’s mother, brother and sister are still in Korea, and his father passed away when he was younger. He has been back to Korea several times since moving to the United States.
“Not for vacation, but for conducting,” he said. “I have been three times for a musical tour. My mom usually comes to my concerts. Whenever I go there, I get to see my mom, and I stay with her, even though it’s usually just for a few days. I love being there.”
Kang’s Instagram is: @keeper_of_stars
by Olivia Norwood