From Crossroads to Crossroads… to this moment in time…
To be understood… overrated. To seek to understand is the beginning of growth. Walking the middle ground, I have always felt a foreigner to divided worlds. Whether it be in music or my belief in Truth, the divide of a traditional yet progressive upbringing, or the world created within myself….
I was born in Canada and grew up with my single mother and grandmother. I spent most of my days with grandma while mom spent her days (and holiday nights as I remember) working. I also spent a lot of time with my older cousins who played a part in influencing and exposing me to top 40, pop culture, and seeing what being"cool" looked like. I admired them then and still do at present…
Grandma told my mom that she had a dream right before I was born. She had a vision of a baby girl holding a violin. By the time I was 4 yrs old, I had already heard classical, jazz, pop, and many other random noises that I preferred over another. I had an inclination to "listening" (i.e.: stopping whatever I was doing) and or dancing to classical music, according to mom's observations and to my memory. I have, in fact, very distinct memories of my childhood and I always love going back to them. It wasn't all bliss, but it wasn't all that shabby either. I could definitely say there was never a dull moment being a part of a family full of korean women. I never fully understood the inner strength my mother had until recent. Probably because I never knew we were poor, when we didn't have "much". I felt I had much. I felt loved, cared for, and I guess, in a sense, I did get it. I was aware of much and was affected by every occurrence or experience. I had a quirky sympathy and sometimes overtly emotional "sadness" for my mother. I remember going to the movies when I was about 5 or 6, and it was a children's movie. I didn't want to go for her sake because it was a "children's" movie and knowing she would be going for my sake.
My mother was hardly strict with me growing up. I had a pretty flexible childhood with the after school tv shows, practice averaging up 2 hrs a day at most, hanging out with friends, going to the park, and saturday morning cartoons with my cousin. I was very organized as a child and being the nerd that I still am, I used to make sure my homework was all done before getting to do all the fun things.
I also once never uttered a word to either of my first two teachers. ever. A hello mostly and many nods. Yet, we were able to communicate through words and music. I first spoke to my teachers years later after I had left to study in the States.They were so gracious and truly shaped who I am today in so many ways. I used to get really nervous before concerts and competitions as a child always ending up playing on an empty stomach. And it's not that I "loved" the stage or limelight of sorts, but it was something I just did. It was a part of my life from the beginning.
I always loved to make up stories in my mind and perform mini plays with my stuffed animals. I would invite my friends to direct them in my shows. In my head, I remember inventing a make believe family and kids with cool names, unlike mine. I loved making house floor plans as a child and also was obsessed with cleaning other peoples' houses. Improv and make believing spilled over into my practice sessions. I began practicing on my own at around 7 or 8 and used to go to the bathroom, because of the mini- concert hall -esque "reverb" and I was performing in front of a huge audience. I liked to run through pieces. I'd play things I heard by ear and "perform". I would make up melodies instead of playing scales or etudes.
Growing up, I was a tomboy. I loved track, dodgeball, floor hockey, beating up the boys (just kidding! sorta) building snow forts, and sledding. I also played some volleyball but wasn't a fan at all. A few days before I flew out to Philadelphia for an audition to the Curtis Institute of Music, I fractured my wrist during volleyball practice at school. I went anyway. It felt fine, as long as I didn't practice too much.
I moved to Philly the following September and enrolled at Curtis, having skipped a grade in middle school as well. I enjoyed middle school. Met some of the funniest, lovable people. Had a crush and a boy named Billy Zuchman had a crush on me… probably the first boy to like me. Billy, if you're reading this, i'm itching to know what you're up to. =p) (One of my dreams is to be re-united with all of my classmates from pre-school on.) I was on the cheerleading team. Not the kind you're imagining but a hip hop team. I learned moves I still remember. I was living the urban life and loving it.
I had some intense training at Curtis. I learned repertoire fast. Tchaikovsky, Goldmark, Glazunov concerto … 3 days memorized including the score each at age 12. The blessing in all of that is that it allowed me to learn things very quickly especially from that point on. But I started to drift. I stopped practicing and started improvising, practicing piano, making up stories in my head, writing poems, and hanging out at the park.
I went to summer festivals. Some of my favorite memories were made at these festivals. Between practice sessions, we would hang out in practice rooms, and play covers. Like it would just happen. "Glory of Love", 80s and 90s epic love ballads was where IT was at. Then came the klezmer. I didn't know what "klezmer" was at the time. I loved it in the practice rooms with friends but was too shy to make my love for it official in the concert hall in front of classical music enthusiasts and appreciators.
When I moved to NYC, I was at Juilliard, and "sought" out, literally, jamming with singer songwriters and bands at the clubs, when I wasn't traveling to perform concertos and recitals. I loved to jam. I busked. I would spontaneously join others that busked. For me, it was thrilling. Yes, thrilling. It was an outlet. I wrote songs. I loved to go to this world within me that only I knew of. I loved tapping into the side that was always a part of "me" but wasn't brave enough to share with just anyone. Like anyone else, all I wanted was to be accepted, after all. I didn't want to disturb.
But, at times, I would have the urge to shock only because I was screaming to be heard and to be understood. I've had the great privilege to work with and perform with inspiring, gifted, and diverse people. In a strange way, I discovered that certain elements of shared passion, style, sound, and thought had brought me together with particular artists in truly genuine ways. I had the privilege to work with, of all wonders of this world, Lady Gaga, whom herself, so embraced me from the moment I met her. I noticed things we have in common in an artsy way. It's not easy to articulate and it's not obvious why. I was also at the time (and previously), aware and current with pop culture, again, thanks in part to my cousins, general upbringing, and even my mother. Yep, she is fun like that. In the end, a lot of what I experienced in the journey made sense in the big scope of things. I also have the privilege of touring with film composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. And yes… I, judy, a former closeted lover of soundtracks and all things that inspired the perfect picture to our emotions, imagination idealism, romanticism, and vulnerability, was in total relief and glee when I discovered my "other musical half" this side of Juillliard. He was and is a violinist (and a pretty spectacular one at it) that I was formally part of an ensemble with. Basking in shameless indulgence of soundtracks, Enigma, and many an endearing throwbacks that sweetly tickled our earbuds whilst on our tour bus.
As I continued on in this adventure, not knowing what was to come, in embracing, separating, and realizing, through it all, I've come to a place of renewal, clarity, and direction of what was next. I went over hurdles and encountered 'real' life. What I experienced on the road, in the journey, was real as real could get. I was smack center and hit hard at the core with the fragility of the human heart and the battles that are fought every moment of each day. I knew that being a musician was merely a vessel to connecting with each other. It was more powerful and it was above and beyond me.
I wanted to do what I've been contemplating for much time. I wanted to embrace and allow myself to be vulnerable. But it had to take its natural course like anything in life. I can't say there ever really is a time when one has "arrived" or is "ready" but to me, it's the ability to recognize the right time in boldness and firmness and embracing challenge as well as the desire and obligation to give something the fullest value it deserves all while keeping the heart soft and vulnerable. I was created to create. After all, It's what I knew and was embracing as a child. In writing and recording my first full length album, I learned…and that is all I needed.
It is about the journey and to see things from many perspectives. There is no box. No labels. No rules.
I love music. I love art and everything in between. To me, everything that I love and has influenced me thus far, takes me further for one purpose and that is completion. It would not be "me" to see one colour or side of a rainbow. I yearn to see it from all angles and to embrace all it can achieve to illuminate. I have gone through the storms to see it burn so bright. I thirst to reach all facets of this life, within myself and what is all around. To discover the mysteries that surround all of us; the seen and unseen things. To allow ourselves to let go and be vulnerable is to allow truth to come forth. Art is a reflection of all that our hearts, minds, spirits, and souls yearn for and come to light.
Thanks for reading. see you on all sides! xx