Chu Ae-gyeong, Vocalist

Chu Ae-gyeong is the first classically trained female vocalist from Daegu, Korea. During Japan’s colonization of Korea, she studied Western music and worked in the United States in order to become a world-class vocalist. When she left to study in the United States in 1927, she famously drew huge crowds for her farewell concert.

Chu was born in 1900 in Dongsin-dong, Jung-gu, Daegu, Korea. Her real name was Chu Dong-am, but she later changed her name to Chu Ae-kyung when she entered Ehwa Academy (Ehwa Hakdang). In 1915, she entered Sinmyeong Girls’ School in Daegu. Her family did not go to church, but because Sinmyeong Girls’ School was a mission school and she had to attend church, Chu started going to the Jeil Church in 1914. At the Jeil Church, she met her future husband, Kim Tae-sul, as well as music colleagues, such as Pak Tae-won, Pak Tae-joon, Kwon Yeong-hwa, and Hyeon Je-myeong.

In 1919, the year she graduated from Sinmyeong Girls’ School, she took the lead in the independence movement in Daegu’s Seomun Market. In 1921, she majored in vocal music (soprano) at Ewha Hakdang Preparatory Course (a two-year course). She graduated in 1925 after completing her undergraduate course in two more years. During that time, she attended the summer conference hosted by the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) in August 1923, where she represented Daegu.

While serving as a teacher at Sinmyeong Girls’ School in 1926, she held a summer concert with the Daegu Youth Association and the Daegu Women’s Youth Association. Soon thereafter, Chu decided to go abroad to continue her music studies. After majoring in piano at the Kazui (活水) Women’s College in Nagasaki, Kyushu, Japan in 1926, she decided to move to the United States in 1927. On June 3, 1927, Chu Ae-gyeong’s farewell concert was held in the auditorium of Daegu Jeil Elementary School. The concert was such a success it was reported in the Maeil Sinbo (每日新報), which recorded that hundreds of spectators filled the auditorium.

In 1927, Chu studied vocal music at the Department of Music at the University of Washington. In August of the same year she participated in the Vocal Competition held on the Winona Lake, in Indiana. In 1930 Chu moved to Boston and entered the New England Conservatory of Music as a vocal music major. It was at that time that she became reacquainted with Kim Tae-sul, an MIT student and musician, and married him. In 1932, she participated in the Boston Autumn Music Competition, at which time a Boston music magazine praised her as “a Korean genius as a lyric soprano.” She graduated from NEC in 1933, after which she worked as a music teacher in Watertown, Massachusetts. She passed away in 1973 and is buried in a park in Blue Hills, Massachusetts.