Largehearted Boy: Book Notes Archives

When I was growing up in Korea, my dad was a marketing executive—whatever that means. The story went that he used to up and quit his jobs because of his temper. My mother was the local piano teacher, and she brought in the steady pay. She had a number of students. The piano lesson tuition was paid in cash, won notes tucked into small white envelopes. Every Christmas, my little sister Sang and I had to go to our uncle’s house and keep out of the way while our mother hosted the year-end party for her students. My older sister Myung got to go to the party with cake, ice cream and presents because well, she was older, and she was also a student. No, I’m not bitter. My family immigrated to Queens, New York in 1976 when I was almost eight. When I think back to our small house in Seoul, I recall that piano room with its thin door closed, a neighborhood kid plunking away at the keys and my mother’s gentle instructions. Even when there were no students to teach, there was always music playing in the house—Hayden, Chopin and Beethoven. I like all sorts of tunes, but the stuff that makes me well up are the sonatas.