Retrospective: Han & Heung Festival

By Cullen Sadler

March 14, 2023

Join festival participants, panelists, and LSU community members for this retrospective documentary about the Festival.

Late January of 2023 saw LSU abuzz with the optimism of a new year. The Japanese magnolias were in bloom and the Quad was bustling with students, signaling the start of a new semester. Within the walls of the LSU School of Music, something even more extraordinary was taking shape; the Han & Heung Festival, a groundbreaking collaboration between the School of Music and the larger LSU community made possible by the Provost's Fund for Innovation In Research, was preparing to celebrate the stories of resilience and optimism shared by both the Korean and African-American diasporas through an unforgettable fusion of music and social dialogue.

"As a clarinetist and music educator, one of my life's missions is to seek creative and innovative ways to explore the role of music as an agent for positive social advocacy," Kang said. "With my background as a native of South Korea - now residing in the deep south of Baton Rouge, Louisiana - I wanted to curate a multi-faceted experience that explores these stories of resilience and optimism, inspired by a Korean expression known as han and heung."

Han (한/恨) and Heung (흥/興) derive from popular Korean social emotions. Han represents repressed emotions of grief, resentment or pain, while heung presents a juxtaposed feeling of exhilaration and the utmost joy. The dialectical tension between these expressions became the lens through which the festival promoted awareness and reflection in how we interact as part of a complex, globalized civilization.

"Given where we seem to be in our society today, I can think of no more relevant time and place for experiences in music that help us to understand our emotions and those of others better," said James Byo, Director of the LSU School of Music. "Using music in this manner helps us connect with people better, helps us navigate the complexities of life more effectively, and furthers our College's commitment to a more just - and a more human - society."

In keeping with its collaborative mission, the festival united a variety of LSU performers and faculty, as well as local and national guests, including the Doreen Ketchens Jazz Band, harpist Ashley Jackson. Panelists participating in the post-concert dialogue included:

  • Maxine Crump, President of Dialogue on Race (Moderator)
  • Dr. Lori Latrice Martin, LSU Associate Professor of Sociology
  • Dr. Cecilia Kang, LSU Associate Professor of Clarinet
  • DoYeon Kim, Gayageum Performer, New England Conservatory
  • Dr. Ju-Yong Ha, Ethnomusicologist, University of Hartford
  • Terrance McKnight, WQXR New York

Lasting well into the late evening of January 27, the festival clearly left a mark on the students and community members in attendance.

"This was a huge representation of having good cross-cultural emotional ties," said Gabriella Hendricks. "[The festival] helps us take things further into 'this is how we feel and this is how we deal with emotions.' Seeing that all play out tonight was just beautiful, incredibly comforting, and something I'll think about for a while."

"For our students, events such as this festival allow them to see their place as change makers," said Kristin Sosnowsky, Interim Dean of the LSU College of Music & Dramatic Arts. "It helps them to think of themselves in ways that are more expansive than just gaining the technical skills that they need to be successful musicians and artists, but also to think of themselves as members of the community."