By Joyell Nevins
“Welcome to my dream.”
That’s what Hillcrest resident Dr. Jeeyoon Kim told the audience when she stepped out on the stage of Carnegie Hall in New York City for the first time. She thought, “If this is my last concert, it will be okay — I have no regrets, nothing to worry about, I just have to enjoy it.”
That was December 2017, and Kim did enjoy it. She called herself “a cup for the music” and felt that both she and her audience were filled. But it turned out it wasn’t Kim’s last concert; instead, the Carnegie Hall show became a kick-off for her latest album adventure, “Over. Above. Beyond.” Locals can experience the full album at a special release concert at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 9, at the Scripps Research Institute auditorium.
The new album is meant to capture the joy and lightness of the music Kim plays. It includes pieces by composers such as Troldhaugen, Chopin, Debussy and Mozart. She wants to connect modern audiences with the emotion and passion of classical music.
“Let’s hope, let’s dream, let’s soar together!” Kim said.
This album also features a brand-new project between Kim and South Korean illustrator Moonsub Shin, a collaboration which started with that Carnegie performance. Shin sat in the audience, sketching as he listened. He had received an invitation to the concert via Instagram from Kim herself, for the possibility of a future collaboration.
Shin studied advertising, publicity and visual arts in under- and post-grad at Keimyung University. He now works as a freelance illustrator with groups in New York City and South Korea. Shin’s latest project was a collection of more than 100 paper coffee cups, sketched at individual cafes and displayed at the Seoul International Café Show.
His black and white sketches of Kim at Carnegie Hall are sprinkled throughout her new album’s booklet, cover and promotional material.
“His pen was flying,” Kim recalled. “His [sketches] captured more than any photo could.”
While the sketches are easily viewed, Shin’s paintings that corroborate with Kim’s playing of “Philosophical Variations” by Johannes Brahms are not. They will be first revealed at her release concert.
“It’s like opening a present for the first time,” Kim enthused.
Shin, who will be coming to San Diego for the concert, agreed.
“I’m so excited to see how the illustrations will work with her playing,” he said. “It will be a great experience.”
A slideshow of each of the 12 paintings will be shown on a screen behind Kim as she plays each variation of the theme. Just as the music does, the paintings exhibit a wide range of colors and emotions, of simplicity and complexity.
“I couldn’t match it with pre-existing drawings,” Kim said. “Shin’s pictures bring the message without talking about it.”
Kim flew to New York to perform for Shin, who sketched while she played. For both of them, it was a first of that kind of collaboration. They agreed that Shin couldn’t do justice from a recording — the music needed to be performed live. So in a private studio, Kim touched the keys and Shin sketched scenery images that came to his head.
“When I play piano, I’m alone, but it felt like a duet,” she said.
“She is great partner to collaborate [with],” Shin said. “Her playing contains full emotion and it really helped when I made the scene images. Also she understood what I wanted to draw and read steps for the best result.”
Kim wants that duet to extend to the audience. In the “user’s manual” that accompanies her CD, listeners are encouraged to find images in nature that are the “perfect expression” of what they thought or felt during the audio playback. Photos can be posted and shared with the hashtag #OverAboveBeyondProject.
One of the reasons Kim was first drawn to Shin was their home country connection. Kim grew up in South Korea with parents that loved to sing and encouraged her musical abilities. Her name comes from two words meaning knowledge and brightness.
“That is my parent’s wish, for me to be someone who is knowledgeable and to be a bright light to the world,” Kim said.
She started taking piano lessons at 4 years old and hasn’t wanted to do anything else since.
“I thought it was always so much fun to play piano, and I still think it is,” she said. “For me, piano is the queen of instruments.”
Kim received the first prize in the Korean Music Teachers’ Association Competition at age 18 and made her debut as a concert artist that same year in Busan, Korea. She received a full scholarship to study at Busan National University and graduated in 2002.
Kim came to the United States to continue her musical training, earning a Master of Music and doctorate of musical arts in piano performance at the Jacobs School of Music in the University of Indiana, as well as a Master of Music in piano pedagogy from Butler University.
Currently, she teaches in Hillcrest at her own studio, Dr. Kim Piano Academy. Kim does both in-person and Skype lessons, and works with all ages. Whether it’s working with students or traversing the world in piano performance, Kim feels she is living her purpose and “being used well.”
“This place [when she’s playing] is full of love, there’s no negativity. It works; it’s magical,” Kim said. “I want to contribute a drop of beauty to this world one concert at a time.
“I see each student and their own character as if they are an already beautiful bonsai tree,” she continued. “Finding unique ways for each student to accept instructions to grow healthy in music is an art in itself.”
For more information about Jeeyoon Kim and her music, or to purchase tickets for the upcoming performance, visit OverAboveBeyondProject.com. You can also like or follow Jeeyoon Kim on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.