Korea's pipe music sector has for so long lagged behind those of advanced countries, with no noticeable local musicians receiving the spotlight on the global stage.
That all changed recently, when a young Korean musician became the first Asian finalist in a major global competition last month.
Cho In-hyuk, 29, won the third prize after competing in the final round of the Carl Nielsen International Music Competition held in Odense, Denmark.
The annual competition takes themes in four different classical music instruments — flute, organ, violin and clarinet. It is arguably one of the most prestigious international competitions for clarinetists.
Cho is currently the chief clarinetist of Orchester Musikkollegium Winterthur, the oldest chamber orchestra in Switzerland with more than 200 years of history.
After graduating from Korea National University of Arts, a major national university for arts, Cho continued studying at Conservatoire de Paris, a globally-renowned college of music and dance in Paris. He also worked with the Tonhalle Orchester Zurich in Switzerland and Seoul Philharmonic orchestra as he prepared for the competition.
He credits his love for classical music to his parents.
"My mother majored in vocal music and my father used to play the clarinet when he was young," he said. "Clarinet's complicated key arrangements caught my interest at the moment I saw the instrument."
Cho decided to specialize in playing the clarinet when he was a middle school student, perhaps not the most ideal age for starting an art major in Korea. The clarinetist confessed that this late decision did reflect in the poor grades he got in school.
He acknowledged that the four years of tutelage under respected professor Oh Kwang-ho, a professor emeritus at Korea National University of Arts, played a major role in perfecting his clarinet skils.
"I learned that a strong will can support me against failures from the professor," Cho said. "Looking back, it was the biggest lesson and one of the most precious assets in my life."
Though he agreed with the view that the status of Korea's wind instrumentalists on the global stage is relatively low, he was however optimistic about the future.
"Recently, more Korean wind instrumentalists are actively working on the international stages and they have won many global competitions of pipe music," he said.
"I believe that more young talented Korean wind instrumentalists will standout, even if it seems a little lagged behind on the global stage for now, compared to other sectors of instrumental music." He encouraged young instrumentalists in Korea to be dynamic in their approach to music.
"Young trainees who just started studying wind instruments should expand their perspective on music by strengthening comprehension on theory and history of music, as well as on musical instruments and genres other than they are majoring in," he said.