As the President of the Idaho State-Civic Symphony Board, in Pocatello, Idaho, my professional contact with Dr. Keum Hwa Cha began more than five years ago. Dr. Cha joined the faculty at Idaho State University both as our Concert Master and our Strings instructor. The students found her to be challenging and engaging as she raised the expectations for their performance technique, in addition to their level of professionalism. One particular student came to ISU on a campus visit and was able to meet with Dr. Cha. This young lady was the first in her family to consider a college career! Her primary focus, thus far, was playing her fiddle. As you probably are aware, Dr. Cha is a classically trained violinist. I’m not confident she was technically versed in “Fiddling” before Shelby came to into her musical world. The meeting was an aligning of the planets! They embraced each other’s discipline for their chosen “form” and Dr. Cha encouraged this student to pursue her passion, double down on her technique. Shelby has gone on to play in our Symphony in addition to having nearly 70 private students and compete and judge national “Fiddle Competitions”. Her confidence came from the encouragement of Dr. Cha. Dr. Cha sees the student, beyond their desire to play an instrument. She embraces who they are and their personal aspirations. She gives them wings that are solidly constructed! This, to me, is a sign of selfless service, a rare and truly treasured quality.
Dr. Cha also enjoyed playing in ensembles with her colleagues in and around our Southeastern Idaho home. Her flare for performing was a highly anticipated component of our concerts. During her tenure, she performed as our Idaho State-Civic Symphony Solo Guest Artist. Standing Ovations! It was a lovely sight in our Stephens Performing Arts Center!
As Concert Master, Dr. Cha rose above and beyond the call of duty and worked tirelessly to build the strings section along with the entire orchestra. She was among them, not above them and led with grace and professionalism. She invested in the summer community youth programs, recruiting students by building relationships in the schools. Dr. Cha took great pride in her work and gave the children every ounce of her knowledge and gentle guidance. These students loved being around her and learning to appreciate the beauty of “listening” to the sounds they could make with their instrument.
From University Instructor to Concert Master, to summer camp enthusiast-to performer and beyond, Dr. Keum Hwa Cha is a chameleon. She wore many colors and invested all she had into every endeavor. The piece that most struck me, however, was that although she was able to readily adapt, her integrity and commitment never wavered. A woman of high standards and morals, Dr. Cha, in her gracious and graceful manner, exemplifies the true meaning of courage and strength. She is a blessing to her family, friends, colleagues and students. Truly a gifted person and a gift to those who cross her path. It is with great honor, I recommend Keum Hwa Cha for any position or endeavor she might choose to be engaged! You will most certainly, get far more than you bargained for!