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Michael Kim - Concert Pianist and Professor



The most thrilling year of his life

An interview article by Rosemary Phillips, April 2001

Michael Kim - Canadian Pianist
Michael Kim - Pianist
ARTICLE INTRO: Michael Kim, one of Canada's finest concert pianists, was preparing for his performance with the Vancouver Island Symphony in Nanaimo, B.C. when he gave this interview by phone from Lawrence University in Wisconsin. It was 2001 and he had just married pianist Kyungran Park and was very excited about his new life. (See the end of the article for a 2019 update and links to more information, and the following informative video of Michael and Kyungren recorded in Winnipeg.)

"This has added a completely new dimension to my life." said Michael with excitement. As one of Canada's finest pianists he is in demand right across North America for performances. To add to his success he now has the perfect partner. "This is one of the most thrilling years of my life. Who could better understand me than another pianist," adds Kim. "My performance has really been enhanced because Kyungran understands what I do, and I'm the happiest man in the world. Even our honeymoon has had to be delayed because we are so busy. I had four recitals the week after our wedding."

Michael Kim was a late starter - but he was persistent

Kim was a late starter with the piano. His mother often played classical music on the stereo in the home, and he was drawn to the dynamic range and sound of the piano. His father, a professional musician, tried to deter him. Kim was persistent, and at the age of 11 he started lessons. Like the cartoon character Schroeder from "Peanuts&", he lived and breathed piano. "I practiced three or four hours a day, right off the bat," says Kim. "My aim was to play Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto. The piano became the focus of my life. I did my best at school and got a number of academic scholarships but piano was my main interest. I love the feeling of the contact with the keys, that tactile feeling, the endless ways of manipulating the sound."

Kim was very much a loner. As he went through school he played for his buddies, and did recitals, but his friends didn't always understand why he spent so much time with his piano. Then at the age of 15 he had his first big breakthrough when he played Rachmaninov's 1st Piano Concerto with the Calgary Philharmonic. "It was a really neat experience. It's always interesting for a young player with an orchestra," explains Kim. "There are musical liberties one can take as a recitalist that become much more problematic to do as a soloist with an orchestra. There are up to 80 of them and only one of you. In the past 18 years I have gained a lot of experience and adjusted to being more flexible."

From Calgary Kim went on to the University of Victoria and studied under Robin Wood then back to Calgary to finish his undergraduate studies with Marilyn Engle. That same year he won the grand prize in the CBC competition. "That was my breakthrough," he added. "There was a lot of radio exposure and it set the whole ball in motion for me."

At the Juilliard School in New York he obtained his master's degree and doctorate. "Being in New York helped make me a much more rounded person. The city has such a rich cultural environment, and great food." (His favourite is Sushi.) After completing his doctorate in 1996, the position with Lawrence University in Wisconsin came up, and now he balances two careers.

Michael Kim likes to play pinball

"Most performances happen on weekends, so I don't have much time to myself," says Kim. When he does get a break he enjoys reading, hiking and fishing, and his passion - pinball. "I spend so much of my day thinking hard, so when it comes to leisure I like something mindless, and pinballs and video games are perfect."

Michael Kim plays Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 Op. 15 in D minor

Right now he's actively practicing the Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 Op. 15 in D minor, ready for his performance with the Vancouver Island Symphony. "It's the ultimate piece for piano and orchestra. It's one of the greatest, it's gorgeous," explains Kim. "I've always wanted to play this with an orchestra and I was really excited when conductor Marlin Wolfe invited me. It's a massive piece, about 50 minutes long, like a gigantic symphony with piano obbligato. With a lot of concertos the piano is the star. With Brahms you are an integral part of the orchestral texture. You are actually a part of the orchestra. This will be a stimulating and wonderful musical experience."

UPDATE 2019: In 2015, Dr. Michael Kim was appointed Director of the University of Minnesota School of Music. He served as Dean of Brandon University's School of Music, in Manitoba from 2008-2015. Michael applies his performance activities and experience to the exciting responsibilities of guiding the next generation of musicians.

For more information regarding Michael Kim please contact: Andrew Kwan Artists.

NOTE: There are many more articles on this site - see Index of Articles.



Copyright Rosemary Phillips, Quills Quotes & Notes, 2019
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