Alumni Duo Hosts St. Augustine’s Premier Classical Music Concert

 

[caption id="attachment_5449" align="alignnone" width="600"] Caption: Jorge and Jin Kim Peña host the St. Augustine Music Festival for free each year to encourage community members to attend the classical concert.[/caption]

Jorge and Jin Kim-Peña were two Columbus State University international students who connected through their love for classical music.

That 1990 musical bond accounts today for the St. Augustine Music Festival, which attracts thousands of music lovers to the nation’s oldest and, some say, most charming city.

“Both my dad and I knew there would be no future in music for me in Honduras,” said Jorge, who now lives in Jacksonville, Fla., with Jin and their children. “It was music that allowed me to travel, study and prosper outside a third-world country.”

Jorge was born in San Pedro Sula, Honduras — dubbed last year as the top most dangerous city of the world.

He studied music there as a child but knew he needed more musical experiences than the city could offer.

After touring CSU with his school orchestra, Jorge earned a full scholarship into the university’s music program and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music in 1991.

He honed his passion for performance and built lasting relationships with influential mentors. He also became principal viola during his college career.

“My former viola teacher was and still is one of the most innovative persons I have met,” said Jorge. “He was an inventor, always thinking about something new.”

Jin’s journey to CSU started in Seoul, South Korea, where she was a member of the Korean Youth Symphony.

A family member recommended CSU, and she too earned a full music scholarship to attend the university.

Jin became principal cello in CSU’s orchestra.

The duo created beautiful music together, and within a year, they married.

“All the teachers in music school were very supportive,” said Jin, who graduated in 1986 with a bachelor’s in music. “I've also met lifelong friends who are very successful in the classical music world today as performers and teachers.”

After college, Jorge began a decorated career as a professional string player, playing with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra. He also played for the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra for nearly 19 years.

Like her husband, Jin has performed in recitals across the country and her native country of Korea. Her orchestral experience spans from the Columbus Symphony Orchestra to Maryland Symphony Orchestra and New York Festival Orchestra.

Jorge and Jin continue to play in orchestras professionally and became chief organizers of the Ancient City’s St. Augustine Music Festival in 2007.

“There comes a time in your life when you want to give back,” said Jorge. “Give back to society, to the city you live in, to your friends and musicians, to the country. We have been very fortunate that many people along the way have helped us.”

The coastal festival lures thousands of visitors to the city every summer. Held in the Cathedral Basillica of St. Augustine, the nearly 1,100-seat venue fills each year.

[caption id="attachment_5451" align="alignnone" width="700"]St. Augustine Concert Caption: Jorge and Jin Kim-Peña give a standing-ovation performance at the Cathedral Basilica in St. Augustine.[/caption]

“We extend the classical music to people who are unlikely to attend classical concerts by offering it for free,” said Jin. “The energy created by the musicians and audience is very special and hard to explain unless people experience it in person.”

This year the festival celebrated St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary by featuring music essential to the city’s history. Both Jorge and Jin gave standing-ovation performances.

 

Outside of the festival, Jorge serves as music director of the Golden Isles Youth Orchestra in Brunswick, Ga.

Jin coaches the Jacksonville Youth Symphony and teaches a small studio of cello students.

The Peñas attribute much of their successful musical careers to their undergraduate education at CSU. And Jorge offers advice to current student — music majors or not:

“There are many opportunities to be made as long as you have imagination and passion to put in time and to commit,” said Jorge. “Do whatever you have to do to make your projects succeed no matter what anyone says.”

[caption id="attachment_5450" align="alignnone" width="700"]Jorge Peña prepared for the classical music concert with his daughter, Gabriela. Caption: Jorge Peña prepared for the classical music concert with his daughter, Gabriela.[/caption]

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Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Fall 2015 edition of Focus, Columbus State University’s alumni magazine.