Obituary: Samuel C. Kang / First Asian-American in Pittsburgh Symphony

Feb. 14, 1930 - Nov. 27, 2013

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South Korean native Samuel C. Kang arrived in the U.S. in 1953, shortly after the end of the Korean War to study viola at the New England Conservatory in Boston.

He later returned to his native land but, in 1962, moved to Pittsburgh after he beat out 100 other violists to become the first Asian-American invited to join the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Mr. Kang, who played with the symphony until his retirement in 1996, died at his McCandless home on Wednesday at age 83.

Peter Kang, Mr. Kang's son, said that in addition to being a professional musician, his father was an accomplished athlete, excelling at soccer as a youth and developing a near-1 handicap golf game as an adult.

His father also enjoyed traveling, he said, and through the symphony was able to meet conductor Leonard Bernstein and other luminaries. "He was very sociable, quite friendly. He really liked to take care of his friends," said Mr. Kang, who lives in Shaler.

Following his retirement, Mr. Kang continued to give private lessons to viola students and, for a time, moved back to South Korea to give lessons there. His son said his father also urged his own children to take up instruments.

"Unfortunately, I lacked his talent so I didn't continue with an instrument."

Mr. Kang also is survived by his wife, Myung Ja Im Kang and a daughter, Claudia Kang of Chicago.

A private memorial service is planned for today at Simons Funeral Home, 7720 Perry Highway, Ross.

Steve Twedt: or 412-263-1963.


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