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Introduction

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Gugak National High School(Principal: Kim Sang-Soon) has carried on the grand tradition of educational institutions specializing in Korean traditional music, such as the Eumseongseo of the Silla Kingdom, the Aakseo of the Goryeo Dynasty, and the Jangakwon and Aakbuwon Training Center of the Joseon Dynasty. On April 1, 1955, Korea’s first six-year middle and high school course at the Training Center for Performers of Korean Traditional Music was founded, in an affiliation with the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts, and in 1972 it was elevated to Gugak National High School.

Gugak National High School is located at the foot of Guryong Mountain(65 Gaepo-ro 22-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul) and covers an area of 19,800 square meters. The school has built up a solid reputation based on the fact that every year 90% of its graduates enter a university, with 20% of them obtaining a place at Seoul National University, and the entrance fees and tuition fees are supported by the government.

As an educational institute specializing in traditional Korean art, the school was awarded the 4th Sejong Cultural Prize(education category) in October 1985. It was designated as a special purpose high school in June 1992, and as ‘a charter school’ with a remit to develop educational autonomy in the arts field on March 1, 2002.

The curriculum of Gugak National High School consists of a number of general subjects and specialized subjects(50% each), with the following fifteen majors currently available: gayageum, geomungo, daegeum, piri, haegeum, ajaeng, taak, jeongga, pansori, minyo, Gugak musical theory, composition of Gugak, conducting of Gugak, Korean traditional dance and direction.

The major facilities of the school include 31 practice-teaching rooms where students can practice their techniques for 5 hours a day; 8 small, medium and large orchestra rooms; 3 dancing rooms; and 92 individual practice rooms, all of which are equipped with central heating and air-conditioning. The school also has a performance hall, the Ureukdang, which has seating for up to 460 people; the Gugak Education-Information Center, which is equipped with state-of-art facilities including a library, multimedia room, audio-visual classroom and computer room; an outdoor performance court(Pungryu Madang); and a dormitory(Jeongjinsa) which can accommodate 300 students. The major events of the school include the Mongmyeok Arts Festival, a traditional Korean art festival held every spring and comprising both a traditional Korean music festival, Urigarak, and a traditional Korean dance festival, Urichum, in autumn; Mongmyeok Hanmadang, an integrated performance of music, song and dance, including a performance by the previous year’s prize winners. The students take part in ilmu(a traditional ritual dance) and important national ritual ceremonies such as Jongmyo Daeje(Royal Ancestral Memorial Rite) in May and Sajikdaeje in September. The students also participate in provincial performance tours, feasts in honor of senior citizens, and many kinds of comforting performance. Additionally, as part of the program of international cultural exchanges, all the second-year students go on a cultural tour to China. In May 1998, the school established a sisterhood relationship with the Affiliated Music High School of the China Conservatory(Principal: Shen Cheng), which is proud of its reputation as the most prestigious and authentic musical education institution in China, and these two schools hold a “Concert for Musical Exchange between Korea and China” in Seoul and Beijing on a regular basis. Furthermore, through the school’s international cultural exchange activities with Japan, the USA and many European countries, the students have opportunities to experience the wider art world, to broaden their knowledge of other countries' traditional arts, and to extend their artistic views.

Not only the activities of the students, but also the dedicated efforts of the music teachers, are so prominent that they have won prizes in many kinds of contests. The Mokmyeok Music Association, founded in 1986 by the school’s music teachers, holds a regular concert and strives to inspire the students. Notably, in 2004, the school invited teachers from its sister school in China and performed a concert together with them in Seoul. The performance has since led to an expansion of cultural exchange between the teachers of the two countries as well as the students.

The principal, Shin Hyoun-nam, who also graduated from the school with a major in Gugak musical theory, pursues an educational philosophy consisting of “cultivating talented artists endowed with creativity and wisdom”. She has applied the subject classroom system to the entire school, and always emphasizes the importance of cultivating a creative mindset, engaging in diverse art exchanges and cultural tours, participating in field learning and voluntary activities, and acquiring actual experience on stage through effective learning methods. Concerning the inheritance of intangible cultural assets and improvement of the students' musical talents, she strives to invigorate the students’ education with the focus on their specialty and aptitude. She is also doing her best to raise competent artists who will lead Korea’s traditional arts in accordance with the school motto of “Conviction, Devotion, and Service.”
The total number of graduates from the school as of February, 2011, the 56th anniversary of the school, some 4,380 students had graduated from the school, many of whom are now playing key roles in the field of traditional Korean music and dance.
Among our graduates there are many artists known as Korean Human Cultural Assets due to their expertise in and knowledge of important intangible cultural assets. They include Lee Heung-gu(specializing in hakchum), Jeong Jae-guk(daechwita and piri jeongak), Kim Gyeong-bae and Kim Yeong-gi(gagok), Kim Eeung-seo(daegeum jeongak), and Lee Chun-mok(traditional folk song). Among the artists known as Semi-Korean Human Cultural Assets are Choe Chung-gung and Gu Yun-guk(Ceremonial Music of the Royal Ancestral Shrine of Joseon), Kim Jung-seop(cheoyongmu), Lee Dong-gyu(gagok), and Kim Ho-seong and Hwang Gyu-nam(gasa).

Among the famous musicians who have graduated from the school are composers such as Park Il-hun, Jeong Dae-seok, Kim Yeon-dong, Hwang Ui-jong, Kim Yo-seop, Yun Myeong-won, Im Jin-ok, Lee Jun-ho, Won Il and Yun Eun-seon; and conductors such as Jo Chang-hun, Kim Yeong-dong, Im Jin-ok, Kim Cheol-ho, Gwak Tae-cheon, Sa Jae-seong, Yun Myeong-gu, Jang Myeong-hwa, Bae Yang-hyeon, Sim In-taek, Sin Yong-mun, Sin Yeong-gyun, Kim Jae-un, Choe Mun-jin, Lee Chang-sin, Lee Jun-ho, An Seong-u and Park Ho-seong.
We also have Kim Yong-u, a talented young pansori singer, and Kim Jin-hui(majoring in geomungo), who is working as a performer overseas. And, at present, over 70 university professors and 150 school teachers are fostering the younger generation. At present, the high school has an enrollment of 450 students, of whom around 82% are female and 18% are male. The school aims to educate elite students in the field of Korean traditional music and dance.

In 2002, in order to prepare for a reduction of the number of students per class and an expansion of the number of classes, the middle school was moved into a newly constructed building. Since 2004, the high school has enrolled 30 students per class, with five classes in each of the three grades(i.e., 150 students for each grade), who are now learning traditional Korean music and dance in a more comfortable and better-equipped educational environment than ever before.