Ode to joy: Kara Park rocks Beethoven

She adjusts the bench. Sits down. Closes her eyes briefly. Takes a deep breath. Lifts both hands to the keyboard. No, this wasn't another hackathon. This was the UWaterloo Orchestra's second Concerto and Aria Competition.

Kara with UW orchestraIn January 2016, student musicians did their best to calm their nerves as they competed at the biannual competition at Conrad Grebel University College. The stakes were high. The contest is open to all student singers and instrumentalists on campus, both undergraduate and graduate. Professional musicians, including professors from UWaterloo and Wilfred Laurier University, judge each student’s performance for rigorous 
technique as well as strength of musicality. 

When Kara Park sat down at the piano, her exceptional musicianship shone through. Playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 5 in E-flat major, opus 73, Kara, along with three other musicians, was selected to advance in the finals. In the second round of competition, Park steamed ahead, earning first place ahead of her peers who all tied for second place.

Kara's passion for music is clear when she talks about the experience of performing music for an audience:

Music has the power to transform sound waves and different pitches into a huge range of emotions. Those feelings that performers create on stage can become a means to a visceral experience for the audience. My favourite part about playing the piano is making music and sharing an emotional connection with listeners.

Kara Park

By winning the Concerto and Aria Competition, Park earned the great privilege of performing as a soloist in the UWaterloo Orchestra's end-of-term concert held in April. Yet she not only played to a 700-seat theatre at Hagey Hall, but enjoyed the incredible experience of being accompanied by a full orchestra. 

For this occasion, Kara chose to revive the piece that got her to Hagey Hall in the first place: Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.5. This work, a whopping forty minutes in length, is also known as the Emperor Concerto - which Park felt was very apt for the occasion:

It is a very grand, majestic, and beautiful work and I was thrilled to play this with orchestra.

Kara is completing post-degree courses at UWaterloo at the moment, but will start medical school at Michigan State University in the near future. Although she anticipates a busy life as a doctor, Kara is determined to share her love of music with the world:

My goal is to become a physician who listens and cares to heal the whole person and not just the disease. Music will always be an integral part of who I am, and I hope to have opportunities to continue playing in the future as well.

Best of luck in medical school, Kara, and don't forget to visit us here back in Canada once and a while!

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