News / Arts & Entertainment

    Korean-American BettySoo Took Long Route to Music Career

    BettySoo with her band.
    BettySoo with her band.
    Katherine Cole

    Texas singer-songwriter BettySoo’s fourth CD, “When We’re Gone” is a collection of songs that deal with the messy parts of life we all go through. The Asian-American folk singer took a long route to a singing career.

    When she was growing up just outside of Houston in Spring, Texas, “singer-songwriter” wasn’t near the top of BettySoo’s list of things to do when she grew up. It wasn’t that she didn’t love performing; it just didn’t seem like a serious career choice for an American-born daughter of two doctors who came here from Korea a few years before she was born.

    “My parents were enough like the typical Korean parents that we did not feel like we were going to be musicians. Actually, that’s not totally true---they still really encouraged studying hard and wanted us to get straight A’s [on report cards], that whole thing," she said. "But, they always said don’t become a doctor or a lawyer because you want to please us. Of all the things you are interested in, choose one of those things. Because, you’re going to wait until we die and you’ll resent it. And it will be too late to pursue those things.”

    Korean-American BettySoo Took Long Route to Music Career
    Korean-American BettySoo Took Long Route to Music Careeri
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X


    BettySoo studied English in college and was 26 years old, in graduate school and working on a masters degree in counseling, before she even gave serious thought to singing professionally. She says she’s glad she had that time in school, even if she didn’t finish, because it taught her to listen and to also dig a little deeper to try to find the “backstory” that makes people do what they do…

    “In college, I was also an education minor and that was one of those things that you learn about there, too," she said. "You know, a kid walks in to your classroom and maybe they’re acting up. Instead of just addressing the behavior, there’s this reminder that you always have to tell yourself that there’s more story there than you know. Something could be going on at home. Something could be going on on the playground. Something could be going on medically. Every person you encounter, there are deeper stories there. There are scars and painful histories that you might not be the one to hear, but they’re there.”

    BettySoo wrote her first song in 1984, and released her first CD a year later. Soon, she was winning prestigious songwriting contests and performing at festivals and in clubs not just across the United States, but also in Canada and Europe. She credits living in the music hub of Austin, Texas for helping her learn her craft and advancing quickly.

    “People taught me how to write press releases, how to do publicity, how to book shows, the art of performance, all kinds of things. And it wasn’t necessarily ‘sit down and teach you,’ but you were just surrounded by it," she said. "And you were surrounded by people who did it well and people who didn’t do it well. And that was a really great education.”

    Today, BettySoo is paying back that generosity, making herself available to musicians who are just starting out - offering to share their songs with other singers, giving advice on publicity materials and website design.  

    “I mean I guess there are now resources online or in books or in seminars or workshops where people can kind of learn how to do this ‘thing’…but I don’t think people who are trying to chase a dream should have to pay thousands of dollars to learn how to do it,” she said.

    When BettySoo’s first CD appeared, much was made of how unusual it was to find an Asian-American woman singing onstage at a folk festival. Today, with four solo releases and several collaborations, reviews focus first on her stellar singing and songwriting - a sure sign she’s moved into the mainstream.

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    New in Music Alley

    Take It From The Top: Stanley Jordani
    || 0:00:00
    ...  
     
    X
    May 17, 2016 5:01 PM
    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously. He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

    Jazz fusion artist, Stanley Jordan is known for his touch technique which allows him to play melodies and chords simultaneously.  He can also play two different guitars or a guitar and piano at the same time.

     

     

     

     

    Blogs

    African Music Treasures