The Korea Herald


S. African artistic director endeavors to spread joy of music

By Hwang Joo-young

Published : Sept. 3, 2023 - 14:45

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Willem Vogel, Brooklyn Theater and's artistic director (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald) Willem Vogel, Brooklyn Theater and's artistic director (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

Pianist, chamber musician, accompanist to a choral conductor and artistic director -- Willem Vogel, 66, has played many roles in the field of music.

In a career spanning 30 years, Vogel has hosted more than 6,000 concerts through Salon Music, his impresario business, and has engaged in productions, theater rentals and educational projects since 1993. Vogel is the founder and artistic director of the Brooklyn Theater, a venue in Pretoria, South Africa, established in 2010. He is also artistic director of the Pretoria-based Gauteng Philharmonic Orchestra.

It is the desire to share the joy of music with audiences that drives Vogel. "The essence of my passion is, of course, the passion itself. But I also want to give the enjoyment which I get from music to audiences," Vogel said in an interview with The Korea Herald on Thursday.

Vogel aspires to make music more accessible by selecting pieces he thinks cater to the tastes of everyday people. "I put myself in the position of the public. I wonder what people would like and that is what I think my talent is," Vogel said.

While the COVID-19 pandemic forced his 13-year-old theater to go virtual, Vogel was undeterred in sharing music. Through, a web publisher of musical content, he continued to bring the joy of music to the public.

His goal is to make the online platform a global hub. “I believe music should be brought to the public in an accessible way. This is why we don't only present strictly classical music but also light music,” Vogel said.

Vogel has also formed close relationships with foreign embassies and cultural centers in South Africa by offering his theater as a venue for events. Pianist Park Yeon-min and tenor Kim Kyung-ho’s recent recitals in Johannesburg in June and August, respectively, were realized through coordination with the Korean Cultural Center in South Africa.

Referring to the South Korean government's robust support for fostering musical talent, Vogel pointed out the challenges faced by the music industry in South Africa due to a decline in government support since the late 1990s.

“In our country, people are not as musically educated as here. It’s very important for me to lead them,” said Vogel.

Vogel expressed a strong desire to see more Korean artists regularly performing in South Africa, particularly young musicians. “We would very much like to have more Korean artists on a regular basis in South Africa. It will also give young people of both countries a chance to exchange cultural experiences.”