Hyejung “Ellie” Chang ’25 | Seoul, South Korea; St. Cloud, Minnesota
Major: Music Performance
Minor: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)

A Leader in Music

Hyejung “Ellie” Chang grew up in Seoul, South Korea. In seventh grade, she made the move to the United States. She spent a year on the East Coast before moving to St. Cloud, Minnesota, for eighth grade. After so much moving in her early years, Chang found a home away from home at Concordia.

Growing up, her dad’s love for music rubbed off on her, and she quickly realized music was something she wanted to do. She started with violin and now primarily plays flute in The Concordia Band and The Concordia Orchestra. What started as a hobby became so much more, and it was her high school band director who influenced her decision to study music education specifically.

“I’ve always wanted to go to grad school for conducting,” she says. “Originally, I wanted to become a high school music teacher and get that education background and experience before going into grad school, but then I decided to go right onto grad school from Concordia.”

While she’s made the switch from studying music education to majoring in music performance, Chang still has a passion for music leadership. She wants to be an orchestra conductor and teach conducting. She is currently a member of the band board, gaining experience in ensemble leadership.

Coming to Concordia

Chang’s first experience at Concordia was for a high school honors orchestra event that she attended multiple times during high school. By the time she was in her junior year, and her third year in the honors orchestra, her time here solidified her choice to conduct. She considers Dr. Kevin Sütterlin to be a big influence in that decision and has enjoyed studying with him, along with band conductor Dr. Peter Haberman, flute professor Deb Harris, and music composition professors Dr. Doug Harbin and Dr. Steven Makela.

“I really appreciate and look up to them, and I just learn so much from them,” she says.

Chang has enjoyed her conducting and music theory courses and considers them to be her favorite. In addition to band and orchestra, she also plays in the flute choir on campus. One of the things Chang loves most about the music program is that you can make your first and best friends in ensembles and grow into a family during the time you’re together. She appreciates that faculty help students learn the music and choose repertoire by underrepresented composers and composers of different cultures.

It’s more than just being good at music. You need to be able to work with other people, make connections, and respect others.

“It’s more than just being good at music. You need to be able to work with other people, make connections, and respect others,” she says. “Togetherness, connection, and community are important … being flexible with different ideas.”

Chang’s favorite memories from Concordia are ensemble tours. She finds them to be a unique opportunity and a time when friendships become stronger, and music takes on a bigger meaning.

Moving From Place to Place

After living in several cities, Chang likes Fargo-Moorhead’s small town feel. It’s quite different from places she’s lived before. Having completed elementary school in South Korea, she experienced firsthand the difference in education systems. She describes school in Korea as being more challenging academically and notes that sports are a much bigger deal here.

“One of the reasons why I came here to study abroad is to see a bigger world and experience different cultures and see more things, live outside the box, and experience new things and learn,” she says. “It helped me open my eyes.”

Chang has advice for other students who are thinking about studying abroad: “It’s not easy to study abroad in a place where people don’t speak your native language. Everything’s so new. Just be yourself and try to step out of your comfort zone. You need to put in some amount of effort to put yourself out there.”

Making Her Mark on the World

Chang had the opportunity to complete a PEAK (Pivotal Experience in Applied Knowledge) through the orchestra, conducting research by interviewing music educators during tour, discussing issues in education, and looking into solutions. They talked a lot about financial support for teachers and making music affordable, which Chang describes as “a big issue in music education.” Instruments and programming are expensive, and part of the research was learning how to gain not only financial support but community support.

Besides music, one of the things Chang has grown to love here is being involved in the Student Government Association. After being a class rep for two years, she has stepped into the role of program and events commissioner, which means a lot of planning for MLK Day events. She hit the ground running at the beginning of the academic year, leading the search for keynote speakers and organizing events for the day. SGA has been another way for Chang to meet people across campus in different areas of study and make a positive impact.

“I’m so glad I chose to come here because of the smaller student body and smaller communities,” she says. “It feels stronger, and you have more connections and more opportunities. I like small classes so you can always go to your professor and talk or ask questions or just check in. It’s really easy to do and your professors know you.”

With her senior year approaching, Chang is making the most of her time here and is soaking up every experience she can.

Published April 2024