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Korean music YouTubers attempt to popularize classical music

More classical musicians also creating YouTube channels to communicate with audience

A screenshot of a video from music YouTube channel “Towmoo” featuring violinist Han Soo-jin teaching a 9-year-old child. (YouTube)
A screenshot of a video from music YouTube channel “Towmoo” featuring violinist Han Soo-jin teaching a 9-year-old child. (YouTube)

Classical music is not often a popular choice nowadays among the younger generation, but Korean classical music YouTube channels are hoping to shatter the stereotype of being boring for the general public.

From using variety show and vlog formats to doing covers, a growing number of YouTubers are creating diverse, fun and easy content while using classical music-related elements.

“Towmoo” is one of the leading classical music YouTube channels that focuses on creating entertaining videos using popular entertainment show formats. The channel currently has more than 544,000 subscribers and the number of subscribers grew dramatically after its video titled “The toughest top 3 songs that Korean piano students have ever played,” which was posted in 2019, went viral.

The 12-minute video, which currently has more than 5.18 million views, begins with a girl playing “Tarantella” by Franz Liszt on the piano. It does not hide the struggles of the college-level piano students, some failing to properly strike some notes in the piece.

“It seems like Liszt played piano to show off his skills. It is difficult,” a student in the video says jokingly after making a mistake.

Other popular videos in the channel attempt to answer questions such as “What will happen if Korea National University of Arts students get a lesson from a world top flutist” and “Who can play the piano faster? Self-playing piano vs. piano student”

“Music Life Balance” is a similarly-themed YouTube channel with over 176,000 subscribers. The channel was created by five piano students of Seoul National University.

Along with creating entertaining content like Towmoo, the channel also provides educational videos on classical music history. Its recent video titled “How did Mozart play the piano?” explains the techniques of the 18th century composer-pianist in a casual manner.

YouTube channels like “Bella&Lucas” and “Layers Classical” cover popular songs with a classical instrument.

“Bella&Lucas” has 638,000 subscribers and features four-hands piano performances. The channel’s pianists have done covers of K-pop artists such as Blackpink, Twice and BTS and they are especially popular among overseas listeners.

“This song always calms me and makes me feel reassured, the piano version is really calming too and soothing,” a BTS fan commented in English on the cover video of BTS’ song “Mikrokosmos” on the Bella&Lucas channel.

Professional classical musicians are also producing entertaining content.

You Sung-kwon, who became a permanent member of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin as a solo bassoonist in 2019, posts diverse videos about his daily life, how he hangs out with his musician friends and his rehearsals, among others on his YouTube channel “Sung Kwon you.”

Many viewers discover these YouTube channels by chance.

“I watched Towmoo’s videos because they appeared on my YouTube feed,” Kim Ji-yoon, a 30-year-old office worker, told The Korea Herald. “I did not search for classical music YouTube channel. I assume that it appeared on my feed because I listen to music on YouTube.”

“I found bassoonist You Sung-kwon’s channel while searching for a restaurant when I was traveling in Berlin a few years ago,” said Park You-jin, 36, a subscriber of the bassoonist’s YouTube channel.

The viewer added that the channels were interesting because the content is something that cannot be found easily in mainstream media.
A screenshot of a video on YouTube channel “Sung Kwon you“ featuring bassoonist You Sung-kwon practicing with a stuffed dinosaur doll on his shoulder. (YouTube)
A screenshot of a video on YouTube channel “Sung Kwon you“ featuring bassoonist You Sung-kwon practicing with a stuffed dinosaur doll on his shoulder. (YouTube)

“It was interesting to see classical musicians talk in front of cameras like that. I hope that pianist Cho Seong-jin also creates a channel like You Sung-kwon,” Park said, adding that she is a big fan of Cho.

“Listening to classical musicians talk casually was new for me. When they play their music or do an interview they are usually very serious. It is hard to know their character and personality,” Kim said. “I did not know that violinist Han Soo-jin had such an adorable personality before watching Towmoo’s video of her teaching a 9-year-old girl.”

Culture critic Jung Duk-hyun says it is natural that classical music-themed YouTube channels are on the rise.

“Conductor Gum Nan-se tried to popularize classical music by communicating with the audiences at concerts. Today it is done through YouTube,” Jung said. He explained that communication can enhance understanding of classical music which helps the audience better enjoy the music.

Jung is positive about using YouTube channels as a new medium to promote classical music.

“For any kind of music to survive longer, whether it is Korean traditional music or classical music, it has to constantly adapt to the changing environment, instead of staying stagnant,” he said. “Classical musicians now also have a perception that they have to change and communicate with the public.”

By Song Seung-hyun (