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[World News] U.S. Ambassador Makes Drumming Debut

Posted December. 02, 2005 07:02,   


Diplomatic circles in Seoul are enamored with United States Ambassador to Korea Alexander Vershbow’s drumming.

On November 29, he showed off his drumming skills during a Thanksgiving party at the reception hall of Hyundai Heavy Industries, hosted by Assemblyman Jeong Mong-jun and Lee Hong-gu (former ambassador to the U.S.), the executive of the Seoul International Forum. On November 30, he joined a New Orleans jazz band at the American Embassy in an impromptu performance there.

The buzz about Vershbow’s drumming skills is old news. He started playing as student at Yale, and he created a band, “Coalition of the Willing,” with fellow diplomats.

He had even said before he arrived in Korea, “I think I will be the first United States ambassador to Korea who is a former rocker.”

His first official debut in Korea is scheduled to be on December 2 at “Once In A Blue Moon”, a jazz club in Cheongdam-dong, Seoul. His schedule was full before as he was making preparations for the APEC summit meeting. However, he has been looking for an opportunity to make his debut ever since he arrived in Korea on October 16.

Lim Jae-hong, head of Once In A Blue Moon, said on December 1, “The embassy contacted us about a month ago. Two days ago, the ambassador came to our club and had a rehearsal with the Han Sang Won Band.” It could be inferred from this statement that the ambassador is not a mere amateur.

Lim said he was also surprised. “I thought he was just doing this for fun since publicity photos are taken a lot…. But I was surprised to hear that he wanted to have a rehearsal. It isn’t easy to play with jazz musicians.”

Han Sang-won, the guitarist, said, “I was really surprised at his drum skills. He can play like a pro, and his passion for music is also astounding.” They practiced about 10 songs during rehearsal. Han said, “I was very impressed by his ‘Stormy Monday.’ The ambassador understands and feels the music. He played “Satisfaction” by Rolling Stones well. I think that will be the encore piece during the performance on the 2.”

Yoo Jae-geon of the Uri Party, who watched Vershbow’s performance at the Thanksgiving party, commented, “I think ambassador is starting his public diplomacy to the Korean public.”

The performance with the New Orleans band was a signal of “Vershbow’s Public Diplomacy.” The event was held to thank the Koreans who participated in raising funds for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The Koreans were treated with “original jazz” by the Doreen Kitchens band from New Orleans.

Chang-Hyuk Kim Yi-Young Cho chang@donga.com lycho@donga.com