Melina Soochan | Singer, Songwriter, Pianist | Jazz, Pop, Soul
Friday, January 20, 2017

Music & South Korea – A Matter of Timing

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Busan, South Korea

Night view of the beautiful city of Busan, 2nd largest metropolis in South Korea, after Seoul.

It finally hit me when I first stepped on the impeccably clean and modern Korean Air aircraft that I was actually doing it. I was going half-way around the world to Busan, South Korea, on a 4-month contract to play music overseas in a 5-star hotel, the Park Hyatt Busan.
All on my own.
With the classical music in the background, and the soft, lilting voice of the flight attendant reciting the safety procedures in the quick staccato of the Korean language, I had already stepped into sophisticated and exotic Korea. The land of Kimchi and K-Pop.

The Preparation

It had taken some significant efforts to get here. I could say it started when I finally received the contract in early December (I boarded the plane on New Year’s Eve!). In the three short weeks that followed just before the holidays, I had a whirlwind of things to wrap up and odds and ends to deal with in preparation for this trip.

Not the least of which was nervously announcing to my highly coveted corporate job that I was going to take a leave of absence. After a couple of uncertain weeks where I hadn’t received a concrete answer to my request, they graciously allowed it.

Among other things, trying to find a last-minute tenant for my condo (which meant I was essentially moving out), figuring who would take care of my two adorable cats Dolce and Gabana, buying all the right insurances for any number of possible disasters that could occur, and navigating the complexities of the Visa application.

All this activity while training my replacement at work, and still performing several times a week at Christmas parties, December being one of my busiest times of the year as a professional musician.

But if I really think about it, I would say the adventure began even earlier, when I was first told about this opportunity in October. At least, in my mind.


The Right Time

I had been recommended by a musician friend of mine who had done similar contracts in the past, and he put me in touch with the booking agency that was looking for a female piano-bar entertainer.

Lucky for them, it was just about the right time, in my personal and professional life, and I was in the right state of mind to properly consider the offer.

You see, previous to this, I had had other chances to leave as a musician on cruise ships or overseas hotel gigs, but it never seemed to be the right time. I was always either in school, or just started a new job (usually unrelated to music), or working on an album, or started a new relationship.

But this time, the stars had aligned.
I had recently graduated from my MBA a year and a half ago and had started working in the exciting and fast-paced world of digital advertising, as a project manager. A very demanding, but rewarding, job that meant security, predictability, and a comfortable routine, but also long hours and often crazy clients.

But after seeing how well the company treated its employees, I felt that if any job would let me take a leave of absence to “pursue my dream”, it would be this one. I might as well give it a shot.

I also had a long-term boyfriend of 4 years, him too a musician, with which things were going smoothly and securely. I believed we were finally at a point where leaving each other for a few months would not tear us apart.

It was definitely the right time.
Being in my early 30’s, I felt it was now or never. And plus, I was getting tired of Montreal’s cold winters and my everyday routine. Typically Korean Sight

The Adventure Begins in Korea

Just my luck, as I wrote this first blog post on the 14h flight to Korea from Canada, I had reverted back to good ol’ fashioned pen and journal, as I had forgotten to charge my laptop the night before.

I looked up from my writing as the flight attendant in her cute, fashionable outfit of cream and pastel blue asked if I would like some wine or beer. And me being in the Economy class! Wine or beer??

Wow, stark contrast with the cheap airlines I usually took to fly down south to some All-Inclusive resort in the Caribbean, which was the type of vacation I most frequently took. Not necessarily out of preference, though there are certainly many things to love about that kind of trip, but just out of respect for my budget most of the time.

I turned to the flight attendant. Yes, thank you, I’ll take some wine. Yup, this trip was gonna be a great adventure and I was ready to soak it all in. South Korea, here I come!

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