UCF professor gives back through ‘A Gift of Music’ program for underserved communities

Chung Park is director of string music education at UCF

A University of Central Florida professor is giving back with the sound of music by helping underserved young people find their own beat through a music program for students.
A University of Central Florida professor is giving back with the sound of music by helping underserved young people find their own beat through a music program for students.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – A University of Central Florida professor is giving back with the sound of music by helping underserved young people find their own beat through a music program for students.

Chung Park is the director of the UCF Symphony and Chamber Orchestras, head of string music education and an assistant professor in the Department of Music.

“It’s a thing that young people can get attached to, that their hearts are into they go to school for that,” Park said.

The UCF professor says music was his lifeline when he grew up in Chicago, raised by a single mother alongside two other siblings.

Park said he brings those life experiences alongside his love of music to the classroom.

“I wanted to help these kids avoid the same kinds of mistakes that I made or to give them the opportunity that I necessarily didn’t have,” he said.

The program called A Gift of Music is open to young people from grades 3- 12 and to qualify they must go to Title 1 school or be receiving free or reduced lunch.

Vanessa Kestner, the program director, says the initiative changes lives.

“It gives our students a vocabulary both oral to participate in music in a very purposeful and meaningful way and each student deserves those tools,” Kestner said.

In his time at UCF, Park has helped usher in a pipeline of instructors for the gift of music program allowing college students real-life experience teaching music which previous students say helped impact them as they grew.

“They are always pushing you to be better, it was a tight family unit, they just wanted to see you succeed,” Cesar Olmeda said.

Looking at the bigger picture as an Asian American, Park says he hopes young people looking for more diverse representation can see his story and be inspired to do anything.

“It’s so important that there are people of color in prominent roles because if we don’t exist then the people who come after us don’t think they can do it,” Park said.

For more information about A Gift of Music program click on this link.


About the Author:

Brian Didlake joined the News 6 team as a reporter in March 2021.