Award-winning Irene Kim scales the keys with precision and joy.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Piano talent Irene Kim believes that honesty in approach and dedication to music’s deeper meaning separates the good musicians from the best. And being the best is something the Los Angeles-native already knows well at the fresh age of 25: She’s won first place in the young artist category of Liszt-Garrison International Piano Competition, as well as a handful of top prizes in other competitions including the Yale Gordon Concerto and Russell C. Wonderlic.
Kim was also the first place winner in last year’s annual Carmel Music Society Piano Competition. She returns to the Sunset Center Friday for a free concert featuring works by Mozart, Schubert, Prokofiev and Schumann.
Kim contends that when she plays in any competition, she never thinks about winning or losing.
“I just want to make sure I get the music across and communicate something when I play,” she says. “That’s my main goal every time I step on a stage.”
Translating the beauty of every note on the page takes more than practice.
“Piano is a motor skill and you can practice scales and watch TV at the same time,” she says. “It’s important to always try to search for a deeper meaning while practicing and help make the music come alive.”
Kim’s methodology emerges in her play: Her translation of Beethoven’s uber-complex Sonata in D Major, Op. 10 No. 3, I. Presto resonates well beyond her years. Her fingers move with soulful fluidity up and down the piano keys without sacrificing precision.
Though Kim has been playing the piano since she was 3, it wasn’t until college that she knew she wanted to dedicate her life to music.
“I realized that I couldn’t spend a day without music,” she says. “It dawned on me that music helps me get through the day.”
Kim’s style enjoys a pure, transcendent character, as if she’s constantly reinterpreting something ancient and fundamental every time she plays.
“Playing for an audience is something personal, but it’s also something that’s bigger than I am,” she says.
The pianist is currently working on a doctorate of Musical Arts at the esteemed Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Md., where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in an accelerated program. She also continues to travel the globe, making appearances with the Korean Chamber Orchestra, Rio Hondo Symphony and Southwestern Youth Music Festival Orchestra in Torrance, Calif.
Kim has also taken her love of music beyond performance, competition and study: She works as a piano technician for the maintenance department at Peabody, where she tunes all the institution’s pianos. Additionally, her love for cinematography recently led her to set music to mixed media.
“I’m always searching and never satisfied,” Kim says. “Being a musician will be a continuous journey for the rest of my life and I’m sure I’ll always be finding things in the pieces I play that I never saw before.”
This year’s Carmel Music Society Piano Competition happens the following Saturday morning at 10am at the Sunset Center.
IRENE KIM performs at 8pm Friday, May 20, at Sunset Center, San Carlos at Ninth, Carmel. Free. 620-2048.