Back To Top

[Lee In-hyun] A symphony for the New Year from the New World

The “New World Symphony” by Dvorak has been performed at the most New Year’s concert series around the world. I think this is why.

When I was studying in the United States, I often felt lonely and missed my family and friends who were in South Korea. Whenever I encountered any issues or problems, I had to solve them on my own. Since I was a graduate student, I had to prepare to face the real world. I applied for many auditions and college-level teaching jobs. Despite applying for so many places, they never reached out to me for a job interview. I was frustrated and lost my energy and passion. At that time, I encountered a very special piece of music. It was the “New World Symphony.” When I was young, this music had absolutely no meaning to me. However, when I encountered some challenges while residing in the United States, it gave me strong power. I felt my passion and energy revive once again. I listened to this song whenever I was exhausted, especially during my pregnancy. I got up again and again like an “ottogi,” a roly-poly toy, meaning even if I fall, I get right back up. The “New World Symphony” was indeed my favorite music, and shaped who I am today.

Antonin Leopold Dvorak was a Czech composer who made the “New World Symphony.” He was offered a director’s job at the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. He did not want to move from the Czech Republic to the United States because he did not want to leave his family behind. However, the job’s benefits were amazing compared to the benefits he was receiving in the Czech Republic. After careful and thorough evaluations, he finally accepted this offer and immigrated to New York City. The United States was not a familiar country to him, but he had very high expectations like many others who migrated there. He was very busy and worked very hard to establish a firm foundation. He tried to become a local New Yorker. However, he felt like an outsider. As time passed, the idea that he was a foreigner did not change. As a foreigner and a person who missed his hometown, he composed pieces with those emotions. He included traditional Bohemian music and captured the spectacular natural landscapes and vast cities of the United States in the piece. Also, he included African-American and Native-American spiritual music because he was able to assimilate himself with them as a foreigner in the country. The music showed a variety of music styles and colors. Although this music started with him missing home, he titled it “The New World.” It was not sad and dark compared to other music that expresses longing. He wanted to go back home but he also wanted to adapt to unfamiliar circumstances. The music was active and bright and meant hope and challenge. After it was finalized, the music premiered at Carnegie Hall in New York. Audiences loved the music for its style, and the applause and praise continued.

Many people make wishes and resolutions as they prepare for a new calendar year. They want the future to be happier and more hopeful. Most New Year’s concerts appear to play this music for those reasons. We have a presidential election in a few weeks, and Korean citizens will choose a best man or woman to lead our nation. This piece may be the best song for this year. If you are experiencing depression or a lack energy in life, please listen to this piece. The music will awaken you once again.

 Lee In-hyun
Lee In-hyun is a classical pianist and author of the award-winning book, “The Classic Class,” published in January 2021. She works both in Korea and the United States. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California. -- Ed.

By Korea Herald (
Korea Herald Youtube