Michael Kim - Concert Pianist and Professor
The most thrilling year of his life
An interview article by Rosemary Phillips, April 2001
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.)
|Michael Kim - Pianist
"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
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
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:
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