Established in 2009, Rainbow Choir is the brainchild of current president Lee Hyun-jung and her friend, who founded together the Center for Multi-Cultural Korea the previous year. The choir’s ultimate goal is to boost the confidence of children from multicultural or foreign families through singing and dancing together.
According to Lee, what these children need in order to efficiently deal with the confusion and alienation of being from foreign and multicultural backgrounds is a community where they can freely express themselves and become more certain about their identities. Lee believes that a choir fits this goal perfectly.
Rainbow Choir is comprised of 40 children in total, with most of them attending elementary school and some attending middle school. The number of Korean children is kept deliberately small, always around 10, to ensure the identity as a “multicultural” choir. Initially, only non-Korean children were granted entry, but Lee decided that such policy would have a negative impact on the diversity of the choir.
Rainbow Choir has practice sessions every Wednesday and Saturday. On Wednesdays, the practices are held in the evenings after school, and on Saturdays the children practice nearly all afternoon.
“The children always seem to enjoy themselves, even when I give them grief for singing off-key!” Lee said with an affectionate laugh.
Rainbow Choir has performed at many prominent events such as the closing ceremony at Incheon Asian Games and a VIP dinner at Cheongwadae, or the Blue House. The choir performs as often as seven or eight times a month. Sometimes, when the performance takes place on a weekday during school hours, not all members of the choir are present because schools have not granted them permission to miss classes.
When the choir was first founded, it was rather difficult to recruit members. Parents from multicultural or foreign family often have not heard about such opportunities because they are not familiar with the Korean language and media, so it was hard to secure applicants when Lee first posted advertisements on the Internet and in newspapers. It was through word of mouth that Lee was able to contact most of the initial members.
Despite all the difficulties, Rainbow Choir thrives and continues to perform actively. The participating children and their parents are delighted with the choir. Photos and write-ups about the choir have even appeared in elementary and middle school textbooks. Lee has taken up the responsibility of running the choir with affection and determination, and the children join in with enthusiasm.