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Alumni/Staff Spotlight | Feb 23, 2023

Alumni Spotlight: Matthew Jihoon Pellegrino

headshot of Matthew Jihoon


Matthew Jihoon Pellegrino is an award-winning composer, Fulbright researcher, and devoted music educator. He has enjoyed an eclectic musical upbringing; one which combines Western classical, traditional Korean music, and a brief stint in a metal band. Uncompromising in his work, Pellegrino seeks to create music that engages equally with casual audiences as well as the most serious of listeners. In his music he most enjoys exploring personal themes while incorporating touches of dark humor. Most recently, Matthew was awarded a Fulbright Research Grant for the 2021-22 academic year to study traditional music in South Korea. An advocate for Adoptee voices, his most current work and interests lie in studying Korean music while creating music in the space between being Korean and American. @compotatoser

Upcoming Events

On May 6 at 7:00 p.m., the Asia Families Spring Fundraiser concert will feature the music of Matthew Pellegrino, a Korean adoptee and composer at the Blackrock Center for the Arts in Germantown, Maryland. The program, themed around Korean Adoption, Light and Dark, will consist of music regarding the search for one's roots, letters home, and arrangements of traditional Korean folk songs.

Matthew's Usdan Experience

What was your favorite class or Usdan activity?

I thoroughly enjoyed my time playing in the bands and orchestras at Usdan. Some of my first experiences playing Haydn and Mozart in an orchestra were at Usdan, and the music that Mr. Schecher chose for band was always fresh, new, and exciting!

What is your favorite Usdan memory?

My favorite memory as a student was the first Gala that I took part in, the orchestra, chorus, and dance department combined to stage a performance of Carmina Burana. I had never taken part in such a large-scale production, and it was an electrifying feeling to play in the orchestra and hear the chorus booming behind us while the dancers leapt across the stage.

How did your experience as a Usdan student prepare you to contribute creatively to your community?

The daily Festival performances had a huge influence on me, especially the variety of performances and acts that we saw every summer. The chance to listen to celebrated artists, such as the Tokyo String Quartet, at such a young age was truly invaluable, as well as seeing the work that all my peers were doing all summer. Watching the dance and theater departments stage their productions piqued my curiosity in their art forms, and thanks to that I've enjoyed many opportunities to work with dancers throughout my career.

Thank U for sharing your story, Matthew!