Seniors Bond Through Artistic Collaboration

Lifelong musician Hwanee Pak and lifelong dancer Lily Garrah joined forces to create an original story for Gene Koshinski’s “Afternoon in March” during online learning and didn’t have to work in-person together once. 

Hwanee and Lily started talking soon after the pandemic closed schools, initially bonding over the college application process. He approached her with a project shortly after they started talking. “I knew her for being heavily invested in her art and very talented,” Hwanee says. He proposed a non-school affiliated collaboration where he would play the marimba, a percussion instrument with a set of wooden bars, and she would choreograph a dance. 

Lily performing at a dance competition, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Lily Garrah)

The first step was establishing a narrative. “I have to have a storyline and a purpose, or else my movement doesn’t make sense,” Lily says. “It’s typical for dancers to have a narrative and a storyline, but I had no idea that he has one every time he plays, too. I thought that was really interesting.”

Hwanee says that they took their time brainstorming. “We approached this piece with sort of a blank slate, and we spent time listening to recordings and coming up with different ideas,” he says. Eventually, they landed on one, a narrative based on the notion that bittersweet memories can be the most meaningful while they may not be the happiest. 

With a story established, Lily began choreographing. She says she always starts with listening to the music repeatedly and then moves to improvisation.  

Hwanee collaborated with Lily while she was choreographing. “He was like ‘I don’t know that much about dance, but maybe a flowy movement here?’ And I was like ‘Got it.’”

Lily had a friend film from different angles that Hwanee then edited together. “The edits of the video were purposeful, and they were part of our image that we wanted to portray,” Hwanee says.

Hwanee playing timpani, a copper drum with a wide base, on Howard Hanson’s 2nd symphony at the Interlochen Summer Arts Camp, summer 2019. (Photo courtesy of Hwanee Pak)

Lily and Hwanee said they used this collaboration as a period of reflection. “There’s so much that we’ve been through that sometimes we wish we could’ve done differently, especially in our senior year,” he says. 

Lily shares Hwanee’s hindsight. “I wish I could have some more closure,” she says in regards to her high school career coming to a close soon. 

In a few months, the two will head off to college in New York City. Lily will be studying commercial dance at PACE University, and Hwanee is pursuing music at the Manhattan School of Music. 

Hwanee says that music helped him through this past long year. “The music that I’ve worked on this year showed me how important it is to keep playing and keep in touch with people.”


The video:

Hwanee was recently a guest on the podcast “Party Size!”