Gyubin Lee recalls being in tears at one of his beginner clarinet classes back in Grade 4. Little did he know it would help him transition to life on the other side of the world and eventually lead to a lucrative scholarship to a renowned New York school.
The Delta Secondary Grade 12 student will begin a new and exciting chapter of his life next September at Mannes School of Music on a deal valued at $45,000 (US) per year. The offer was one of several from universities on both sides of the border after two weeks worth of visits and auditions.
“For one single school there were like five music halls,” said Lee of his tour of Mannes. “There is so many opportunities for me there and one of the biggest things is to meet other musicians to perform and collaborate with them, as well as make new friends. I’m very excited.”
It was back in Seoul, South Korea when Lee’s mom enrolled him in an introductory clarinet class.
“I think I was almost too young to do it. I remember crying one time and almost refusing to play,” he said.
He continued on and some private lessons followed before his family moved to Canada prior to his Grade 7 year. He attended a local elementary school, even though he only knew some basic English, where there was a mandatory band class. The challenging transition was made easier thanks to his emerging musical talent that progressed to DSS band courses.
“It was such a change of environment for me and it was a difficult time just fitting into classes, but when I went into the band room, many kids were impressed with how well I played the clarinet,” Lee recalled.
He took his musical talent beyond the classroom walls, initially spending time in the wind ensemble with the Richmond Delta Youth Orchestra before a successful audition with the Vancouver Youth Symphony’s intermediate orchestra. It was then a stint with the Vancouver Music Academy before returning to VYSO Senior in 2021.
Although the pandemic resulted in no concerts for an extended period, Lee said he made the most of the additional practice time and also joined Keys for Seniors, a volunteer group of up-and-coming musicians that sends recordings to senior residences.
“We eventually had the opportunity to perform at a retirement home in person. I just really love to perform in front of others. I think it was around that time I seriously decided I want to continue my musical career,” Lee added.
Soon after graduating from DSS, Lee and his family will return to Seoul this summer for the first time in six years before he makes his way to New York.