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Her fingers make music, make magic
Lezima Gomes

It was a magical evening at the Katara Opera House, the other day, as Korean pianist Sonja Park enthralled the audience right from the minute her nimble fingers touched the piano keys. After the performance, the standing ovation that Sonja received, amidst screams and claps, was befitting the adulation reserved for a rock star.

Dressed in a white, modern-style ballroom gown with her hair neatly tied in a side bun, Sonja was the ballet dancer, only it was her fingers and not her feet that did the dancing - on the piano keyboard. Her musical prowess was on show as she negotiated the works of Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin with masterful ease.

Sonja grew up with music around her. Her mother, who was a piano teacher and music school director, constantly forced her to learn an instrument. 'I did learn to play the piano but I hated to practise,  Sonja said. She confesses that it was never her life's ambition.

'All my teenage life, I knew I wanted to be a journalist,  she exclaims. But destiny had other plans.

Sonja had a life-altering, soul-touching experience when she attended a concert by her teacher, Professor Alexander Jenner, in Vienna. 'That was the day I realised my passion and love for music. It was an outof- the-world experience. I had come face to face with my destiny, my ambition, my love,  she explains with a glimmer in her eye.

Sonja came to Qatar in 2008 and has over the years established herself as a highly skilled pianist. Describ-ing her passion for music, she says, 'It's almost like being in a relationship. It has its ups and downs, but it is passion and love that really keep you together. When I practise and it does not go the way I want it, I get upset but the passion for it gets me back. It is like a non-separable relationship: even if you try to go away, you cannot, because the love is so deep.  It is a pleasure just watching Sonja, her fingers run over the piano keys with grace and dexterity of a master. But how is it for her? What does she feel while playing a piece? 'The music creates chemistry between me and the audience.

It's a magical feeling and it's sometimes really addictive,  she explains.

'It is a feeling of being in a trance, where you are not just playing what the composer has written but you basically identify with the music. You become one with it. Once I finished playing, I had forgotten where I was. It was a wonderful experience.  Besides performing at concerts, Sonja also teaches music and is the founder of Moving Young Artist (MYA) along with her husband Joris. MYA is a charity programme, that will kick off activities mid of this year its main goal is to take music to the Qatari youth as well as the disadvantaged individuals by going to various schools to perform so as to let the youth enjoy music.

'MYA's activities will focus on getting people in Qatar in touch with good music. Everybody should be able to enjoy live music but let's be real: not everybody has the chance to attend live concerts. We want to take the concert to them. We want to promote music all over Qatar, especially for locals. I hope and plan we can visit various local schools for talent scouting.  Music is a universal language and has great potential to heal, to sooth and to bring people together. 'I feel music can grow even more in Qatar. I want to create an international music festival and I want to make Qatar a musical hub,  Sonja says.


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