Penn Sori Brings Korean Music, Culture And A Little K-Pop to Campus

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Media Contact:Jeanne Leong | jleong@upenn.edu | 215-573-8151January 27, 2014

When Penn Sori performs at the University of Pennsylvania, there’s a surprising element: K-Pop.

The student group, which sings in both English and Korean, enjoys adding the popular musical genre from South Korea to its renditions of familiar American songs.  

Comprised of Korean American and international students from Korea, the group performs at events across campus including events at PAACH, the Pan Asian American Community House. Last fall, Penn Sori was one of the featured groups at a Homecoming event on College Green.

The group has also performed throughout the Philadelphia area, including an appearance at a Phillies game in 2009.

Annually, Penn Sori holds one concert in the fall semester and another in the spring.

At its fall concert, the group performed “She Will Be Loved” by Maroon 5, but with a twist. It was mashed up with a popular Korean song, “Beautiful.”

“Some of my favorite songs are mash ups,” says Stephen Ahn, the group’s music director. “We find a song, and sometimes we’ll be listening to two different songs and we might say, ‘these songs sound kind of similar,’ and we’ll put them together.”

Freshman Sam Joo, from Seoul, South Korea has invited non-Korean friends from campus to give them a taste of the group’s music.

“Having little knowledge of Korean culture, they get a sense of modern Korean music,” says Joo. “And they might go home and take a look at it on YouTube. I find great pride in it. I’m 5,000 miles away from my hometown in Seoul, yet I’m helping to spread Korean culture.”

Between planning performances, two hour rehearsals twice a week, and holding concerts, the group has forged a strong bond.

“I consider Penn Sori my family on campus,” says Ahn, a senior political science and East Asian studies major. “It’s definitely my closest group of friends. It’s the people I go to when I need something, or want to get dinner with someone.”

Joo, one of the newest members of Penn Sori, says through the group, he quickly found a home on campus, sharing a love for music and celebrating culture. And, when he was sick with a cold shortly after arriving at Penn, it was his new friends in the group who helped nurse him back to good health.

“They came and dropped off vitamins, cold medicine and soup,” Joo says. “Those little things they do outside of practice show the value of family and community.”

Ahn, a senior from Potomac, Md., joined the group as a freshman, and attributes much of his personal growth and development to his work with Penn Sori.

“In something like song selection, if I had to work with the other music director, and I had an opinion about what song should go into a show, and she has a different opinion, we have to work diplomatically to make a decision that everyone’s happy with.”

In Joo’s short time with Penn Sori, he’s realized the valuable lessons he’s learned in putting together shows, but also about time management and scheduling so that he can fit in extra-curricular activities along with his class work in the College.

“Keeping time, valuing other people’s time,” says Joo, “It’s an  important lesson for me in the next years of my college career and when I go into the workforce.”

Penn Sori is now busy preparing for the spring concert scheduled April 4 and 5 at the Prince Theater in the Annenberg Center.

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