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A Reflection on Spring 2024 K-Pop and Beyond: The New K-Pop Education Platform.

“It was an amazing experience to witness the evolution of K-pop,” shared a student participant of the 2024 K-pop and Beyond at Berklee, after a songwriting session with renowned artists Chikk, August Rigo, and Michael McCall.

This comment intrigued me, especially because the student highlighted not only the high-quality content of the discussions, but the remarkable fact that all the panelists were non-Korean songwriters and producers. This illustrates the transnational phenomenon K-pop has become. My excitement grew at the finale of this well-curated event, the student dance showcase. It was a fusion of Korean and non-Korean students, all demonstrating a passion for K-pop dance, many of whom were not even dance majors.

So, what is this all about? I would say that, during the 2024 K-Pop and Beyond event, I witnessed the future of K-pop as a holistic educational tool, encompassing both resiliency and leadership practices.

As an educator deeply interested in experiential learning and practical pedagogy, I find it challenging to find the right tools to prepare students to apply their skills in a professional setting. Skills could literally be about how to form a business plan to produce music, but what I really mean is to understand the power of resilience and being confident as they face challenges. Preparing for such a dance showcase can be a good example because it takes hard work, and sometimes there are many factors that discourage them from being fully ready. But once they grasp the idea and get into the groove, where they start to see the value of their time and efforts, self-acceptance will happen, which will equip them with a sense of resilience. And it is the truly shining moment that will be engraved in their hearts forever, as they become leaders of their own lives. One might argue, isn’t this what we have been doing already in our classes? Transforming the students so they can grow and explore the world? Yes, but ’am I doing enough?' is the question I pose every day. In particular, in this age of powerful, incredible digital technology, the question becomes intriguing: so many tools cannot simply transform students; it is more about understanding what they can do with the tool. In this manner, understanding K-pop as an educational tool enables the younger generation to transform their dreams into a feasible platform. This means they learn how to engage with the world in which they are meant to thrive.

In fact, as transnational as it is, K-pop can be an incredible educational tool for students of all backgrounds to experience both success and failure, and most importantly, learn how to persevere and seek help. To me, this embodies the true essence of education that transforms students. 'K-pop and Beyond' was initiated last year to celebrate K-pop and continue the legacy we have built in the community. I envision it evolving into an immersive educational platform that can catalyze many discussions on how to maximize its benefits for students. One way to utilize K-pop as an educational platform is by providing students with the opportunity to design their own idol group. This is an actual final assignment in my K-pop class, where students must demonstrate a phase-based approach to create a proposal of a new idol group, encompassing planning, casting, training, producing, and management/marketing. With this well drafted proposal, students collaborate with peers who have skills in choreography, production, visuals, and marketing to execute the plan. Eventually, they can present their results to the public during the 'K-Pop and Beyond' event. The main reason I was very impressed with the final dance cover session was because, again, the majority of students were not dance majors. The challenges they faced were likely harsher than those encountered by students who study dance diligently. But I believe this was possible because they shared a similar sentiment, facing the same challenges and seeking a way out together. What if all students came together to design their idol groups the way they want? This could provide a true creative platform for them to explore their aspirations and learn how to produce tangible outcomes. Although coordinating many moving parts is required, my experience watching students deliver the entire K-pop dance event convinces me that the outcomes would be even better if we provided them with a playground to ignite their creativity.

One day, we will see the results of our efforts and undoubtedly discuss other interesting ideas. However, I do believe that K-pop has reached a pivotal moment, and transforming it into an educational platform represents a sustainable way to have a lasting impact. Students will greatly appreciate this, and most importantly, it will pave the way for other culture-based experiential learning platforms for all students!


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