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Northwestern Violinist a YouTube Smash

Sophomore Jun Sung Ahn rocks YouTube with hits like his 'Gangnam Style' cover

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December 7, 2012 | by Erin White

He’s spent the last decade becoming a classically trained violinist, but now 19-year-old Jun Sung Ahn is perhaps best known for his version of the global hit “Gangnam Style” by Korean pop star Psy.

Since summer, Ahn’s dance and violin cover of “Gangnam Style” has drawn 2.4 million views on YouTube, and the video won first place in a competition Psy held in South Korea.

“There is actually a video clip of Psy saying my name and saying congratulations,” Ahn said.

In July 2011, just before coming to Northwestern, Ahn, who plays melodies by ear, was urged on by friends to make his debut on YouTube with his rendition of “Lighters” by Eminem. 

Since then he has been playing violin covers of pop songs to tens of thousands of fans on YouTube, making many of the videos from his dorm room.

The Northwestern radio/TV/film major’s star power was recently highlighted at the annual Kollaboration Asian-American talent show in Los Angeles.

Ahn spoke with Erin White, University Relations broadcast editor, about his rise to YouTube fame.

Pop music played on the violin isn’t a new concept. Why do you think so many people are drawn to your videos?

I was very consistent with my videos. I uploaded a video every week for the first two months of school. I kept up with content. I made a Facebook fan page, a website and a Twitter account. I started seeing results. People started coming back to watch my videos, and they started anticipating new covers. I’m also a perfectionist when it comes to editing. My channel really took off once I started making use of a video editing technique where I record myself twice in the same room and cut videos together to “clone” myself and play harmonies with my “twin.” People really liked that.

Your biggest hit, with more than 2.4 million YouTube hits, is a cover of Psy’s “Gangnam Style.” You dance and play violin at the same time! Why did you decide to make that video?

I was born in South Korea and came to New Jersey in third grade, but I’ve always liked Korean pop music and had been following Psy’s work. I posted the video literally about a week after the song came out. I thought the song was great but had no idea it would take off the way it did.

I entered my video into a competition that Psy held in Korea, on a Korean website, and it won first place.

You recently participated in the talent show Kollaboration in Los Angeles. What was that like?

Kollaboration is this huge Asian-American talent show that brings in talent from 14 different cities in America and Toronto. I was part of Kollaboration in Chicago this summer, and I won the competition, so I got to compete in L.A. for the title of Kollaboration Star 2012. I didn’t win, but it was a great experience.

I actually dropped to part-time student status this quarter to take part in the show. Next quarter I’m back to full-time. I think I might take five classes.

Will you have time to keep up on your YouTube channel?

That’s the biggest dilemma, balancing when I’m going to upload a video and balancing how much schoolwork I’m going to do.

I think I’m going to cut back on making covers. I’ve run into some issues with copyrights in some cases and recently had to take my channel down for a few days after getting copyright strikes. I made a lot of phone calls to record companies and got my full rights back to make these cover songs, but that was very stressful. I hope to make more original content in the future. I’m actually collaborating with a lot of other artists right now to make a lot of new and original content that people haven’t seen before. So that’s my goal for the future.

What has been the most surprising part of your journey into YouTube stardom?

I’ve gotten a lot of fan messages and fan mail from people who bought a violin just because they saw my videos. Although they’re not always pursuing it in the classical path that I would recommend, the fact that they’re inspired to pursue music just because of my videos is inspirational. 

- Check out Ahn on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/JuNCurryAhn.

Topics: People