Interview: Ryan Goessl, Camarata Music Company

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A version of this article was printed in the May 2010 issue of Groove Magazine.

By definition, a ‘Game Changer’ is someone doing what other people have only thought about doing. Ryan Goessl, the man behind Camarata Music Company, has already accomplished quite a feat in bringing together a choir and orchestra of foreigners like us. I had the opportunity to sit down with the man – in his motorcycle outfit, no less! – to get to know him a bit.

Chris Backe: What inspired you to start a music company?

A version of this article was printed in the May 2010 issue of Groove Magazine.

By definition, a ‘Game Changer’ is someone doing what other people have only thought about doing. Ryan Goessl, the man behind Camarata Music Company, has already accomplished quite a feat in bringing together a choir and orchestra of foreigners like us. I had the opportunity to sit down with the man – in his motorcycle outfit, no less! – to get to know him a bit.

Chris Backe: What inspired you to start a music company?

Ryan Goessl: When I first arrived, there were almost no opportunities for foreign performers in Korea. The few opportunities that existed were there for the truly exceptional musicians. I started Camarata to make more opportunities for people to perform, instead of waiting for someone else to create an opportunity. [Now,] people are doing something meaningful and productive with their time, not just drinking beer on the weekend.

CB: What is your musical experience?

RG: I have a Master’s of Vocal Arts from the University of Southern California, and I’ve taught vocal lessons here in Korea for the past several years. I do a lot of vocal acting and voice work within the Korean media, and I had a small part on ‘How I Met Your Mother’ back in 2005.

CB: So far, Camarata has had two successful performances – the Messiah last December and a performance of both Duruflé and Fauré’s Requiem more recently. What’s been the most surprising or interesting thing about them?

RG: It’s been amazing to see the enthusiasm of the choir. Nobody is getting paid, yet they show up week after week to make some great music. They practice before coming into rehearsal, and it really shows. It’s incredible to listen to the singers blend – that’s one benefit of standing on the conductor’s platform.

CB: Time to switch gears here. What’s your 5 year plan?

RG: I want to see [Camarata] become a well-respected, performance-based organization. I’d also love to begin working with Korean orphanages to increase their musical capacity. Camarata is registered as a non-profit organization within Korea, and we plan to keep all the money stuff transparent for anyone to see. Of course, making great music is a priority, as is getting to be respected and prominent within the Korean music community.

CB: Seoul already has a vibrant arts and musical community – if you know where to look. How does Camarata fit into that?

RG: By the time you read this, Camarata will be a non-profit organization. The whole point is to make uncommon classical music available to people. Of course, I want the company to become prominent and respected by the Korean orchestras and musicians. There are plenty of rock bands and visual artists out there, but no one else focuses on the classical music that most musical forms are built on. That’s our focus – performing the music that’s not as commonly heard here, orchestra and all.

CB: The majority of expats in Korea are teachers, so there’s bound to be turnover. How does the company deal with that?

RG: There are always people leaving Korea, and we’re always actively looking for new singers to join the group. It’s a new choir every three months, but there are always enough like-minded people to keep the group together. Quite a few people come back for every opportunity we have to sing together. While there will always be room for singers in the choir, there’s also plenty of opportunities to grow within the company. There’s always something to get involved in, and it’s a great chance for amateurs to mix with the professionals.

CB: How do people get involved? Is it just for foreigners, or can Koreans join too?

RG: E-mailing me [[email protected]] is best. The [Camarata] website has a lot of information – www.camaratamusic.com – although we’re all over Facebook. Although there isn’t a formal audition process, I’ll listen to you to see which part you’d be best at.

CB: So what’s coming up for Camarata?

The rest of 2010’s season is pretty much set. We’ll have a concert of Brahms’ Liebeslieder Walzer in June or July, along with Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms in September and Handel’s Messiah in December. Our focus is on uncommon music – classical music you’re not going to hear anywhere else in Korea.

Creative Commons License © Chris Backe – 2010

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