Behind The Music: Surrey Campus’s Resident “Guitar Guy”

An accoustic set with Wonsucc Lee

Preet Hundal / The Runner

The Surrey campus courtyard is the closest thing Kwantlen Polytechnic University has to a social epicentre. Although KPU students are windswept across four different campuses, the courtyard sees an impressive amount of traffic on a day-to-day basis. Surrey-goers can become familiar with the courtyard’s array of sights, ranging from frogs and ducks lounging in the pond to students and faculty members lounging on the grassy knoll beside the pond.

One such lounging student in particular is 19-year-old Wonsucc Lee, better known to some as “the tough-looking Asian dude who carries a guitar everywhere,” among other variations.

Unbeknownst to many, beneath this mysterious tough guy visage lies perhaps one of KPU’s most genuine characters. Dozens, if not hundreds, of Kwantlen students see him every day of the working week, sitting with his signature acoustic guitar. But few have bothered to chat with the man, or even listen to him play. Who is this raconteur? This bard? In his own words Lee is a man who is “extremely fond of all forms of creative art [and] independent artists of all kinds.”

“Every time you hear a piece of music or see a painting or photograph and read a philosophical text, you get take a look inside some of the great minds of others and even use it to expand your own,” Lee explains. “It is the expression of something that cannot be demonstrated through colloquial language. It is the essence of humanity and speaks to every one of us regardless of race, religion, social classes, et cetera. It is what separates us from the animals.”

In case it wasn’t made abundantly clear, Lee is a philosophy major.

Much of Lee’s mystique emanates from his ever-present instrument, specifically from the fact that even amongst those many who have made note of his presence, seldom few have ever heard him strum a single chord. The question arises: can he even play that thing all? Does he merely pose with a guitar hoping to allure the “college crowd” that play hackey sack all day or sit cross-legged on university campuses singing the half-remembered lyrics to “Wonderwall”?

When confronted, Lee responds by saying that he “can actually play” the guitar and that, if found at the right time, he will be “picking away quietly, not to disturb anyone who may not want to hear it.”

“Instead of creating an impression, I simply stand by my great reverence for creative arts and hope to share this particular branch that I was fortunate enough to add to my life,” says Lee.

So, for once and for all, that matter is settled. Lee can play guitar.

But can he play “Wonderwall?”

As described by Urban Dictionary, “Wonderwall” is “something every lovesick emo teenager believes they can relate to.” Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your musical taste), Lee claims that he has “absolutely no idea” what “Wonderwall” even is.

Lee explains that he began playing guitar as a way to cope with a “really wrong period” in his personal life, and draws inspiration from musicians such as Ray Lamontagne, even going so far as to name his guitar “Jolene” after one of Lamontagne’s songs. Other influences and favorite musicians of his include Han Dae-Soo, Lee Moon-Sae, Norah Jones, Robert Schumann, Frederic Chopin, Danny Elfman, Jack Johnson and Paul McCartney.

In the end, Lee encourages other students to express their creativity publicly on campus, as he believes, “It would be a great addition to the typical college campus atmosphere.” Next time you’re on the Surrey campus, be on the lookout for him and Jolene relaxing around the Surrey Plaza. Maybe you can even stop by and say hello, chat or listen to him play.

Just don’t expect him to delve into Oasis’s greatest hits.


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