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A Messenger of Beauty

want to share a recent article from the San Diego Union Tribunethis week. I loved how the article covered a connection between a life and music. I think you might like to read it too! Here is the article below.

Classical pianist Jeeyoon Kim: ‘a messenger of beauty’ using life lessons to connect with others

Jeeyoon Kim still isn’t quite sure whether she chose the piano at the age of 4, or piano chose her, but the award-winning classical pianist and music educator has no regrets about following her passion and love for music.

She’s been called a “force of nature” with “a wealth of talent” who’s built a connection with her audiences through conversation, converting younger listeners to the beauty she sees in classical music. Now, she’s sharing the lessons and habits she’s cultivated in her life as a musician in her new book, “Whenever You’re Ready: How to Compose the Life of Your Dreams.”

“Through this book, I wanted to demystify many assumptions that people might have about what I do, and share the tools to prepare for the stage mentally, emotionally, and physically,” she says, noting that the title of the book came from noticing that someone is usually backstage before it’s time for her to perform, with their hand on the stage door, before they turn to her to say, “Whenever you’re ready.” In those moments, she gathers her courage, nods with a smile, and steps out to perform.

“Through my teaching, I realized that there are many tools in life that people simply ignore, even if they know of them.”

Her hope is to use warmth, honesty and compassion through her experience as a concert pianist and fellow human being with her own struggles, to inspire and motivate others to use some of the tools that have worked for her “in their green rooms when they perform on their stage of life.”

Kim, 41, lives in Hillcrest and moved to the United States from Korea nearly 20 years ago to pursue her master’s and doctorate degrees in piano performance. She took some time to talk about her book, some of the lessons she’s learned from her music career, and the importance of continually learning herself and being kind to herself.

Q: I’d like to ask you a couple of questions based on the titles of some of the chapters in “Whenever You’re Ready.” In “Dealing with the Monster in Your Head,” I’m curious about who/what your own monster has been? What does it say to you, in your head? And how do you deal with whatever is being said? How do you overcome it?

A: Being in the spotlight as a performing artist in front of crowds is an interesting position for anyone to hear their own negative voices before, during, and after a concert. When things are not going in a way that I anticipated, the monster in my head is the first to criticize that section of the piece, or even before anything happens the monster might anticipate a mishap or create fear or worry. Daily journaling has been my life saver. I try to analyze the root of the voice, write all my negative thoughts, and explain why those negative sentences are silly and not true. I write a visualization of my best upcoming performance scenario in details and my affirmation sentences. It strengthens my thought muscle every day. Just like the body, we all lose muscle every day, little by little. So, I need daily maintenance of my thoughts too.

Q: There’s also “The Beauty of Our Limits.” What are your own limits? And what beauty have you found in those limits?

A: Before I walk onto a stage, I always think that the concert I am about to give is my last. If this is my last concert, what’s there to worry about? This way of thinking always liberates me to appreciate the very opportunity that I’ve been given to share music and sets my mind up to give my all with no regrets. I always want to walk off the stage feeling that there is absolutely nothing more I could have given. It was truly my best effort to connect, enjoy, feel, express, and live in this very moment, fully. I try to walk through each day as if it is the last day of my life. This helps me to live fully in the moment. We experience every day only once. There is no going back, no stopping. In every minute of every unique stage of our lives, we have a choice to fully live or waste the precious moment. I believe that if I want to create a piece of heaven now, I can certainly do it with my intention. I can always choose to connect, do good, and help others. Enjoy, feel, be positive and happy, love, and do the very thing I love to do, which is playing the piano right now. Even though we wish we could be here forever, it is true that we have a limited time on this earth, which makes our being here more beautiful and worthwhile.

What I love about Hillcrest …

The fact that I can maintain a walking lifestyle. I can walk to restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, grocery stores and everywhere. I love the feel of a busy city like New York, within a city where I can get to the beach in 10 minutes. I have a (San Diego) zoo membership, so I walk to the zoo as part of my regular walk, which is just five minutes from my place. I feel like I am somewhere between beautiful Spain (Balboa Park), a tropical African jungle (the zoo), and energetic New York City (the main blocks of Hillcrest). As much as I travel, the fact that the airport is just a 10-minute drive from my home is amazing.

Q: You’ve been recognized for your talents as both an artist and an educator, with numerous awards, and you’ve also attracted younger fans to classical music. Why is it that you think you’ve been able to draw younger people into enjoying classical piano? What are you doing differently?

A: Many older generations experienced classical music as the main source of entertainment at home or at the local theater when they were growing up. In the world of so much stimulation in which we currently live, I find that the younger generations need a little more guidance, or to at least first experience being guided into classical music. It is not that they wouldn’t be interested in classical music, but they have never had a chance to experience it properly. I talk to an audience like a friend who happens to be a concert pianist, as if I am inviting them to my living room to play a piece that I am passionate about. I assume nothing and there are no program notes, nor a list of pieces that I will be playing; it’s just me on a stage with a microphone to guide and embrace it as a journey we would take together. I create a bridge by sharing my feeling about the piece, struggles, victories, stories and emotions connected to the piece, then open a path to them to get into their stories and feelings about the music as they listen. My goal is to be a vessel for the music, so that they can get its core message as directly as possible. The more they connect with me, the easier it is for them to bypass me, the pianist, and get to their souls, which directly communicate with the music. They finally get it when they are properly given the opportunities, and they think the music of Beethoven and Chopin is “cool.”

Q: What’s been rewarding about your work in classical music?

A: When people who never attended a classical concert become fans. When people tell me that my music inspired them to be a better person, giving them strength and courage. When a young audience tells me after a concert that they love a certain piece and passionately explain why they loved it, with a huge grin on their faces. When I know I created a small ripple in people’s hearts with what I do, which I know will have positive effects that I can never measure. I am a messenger of beauty, I deliver it to people.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

A: Don’t ask “why,” ask “what now?” I love this mindset because instead of the blame that comes from why something has happened, it directs me to being in the now. What strategies can I use now? What can I do in this situation? It brings my focus to being present and positive, knowing that there is always something I can do about it.

Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?

A: The fact that I surf every day and love to ride gliders. To me, surfing is like making music, following an organic shape of phrasing with ever changing waves and being at one with nature. I love watching the sunrise from the water, seeing dolphins swimming by and pelicans catching fish for breakfast. I try to observe what nature teaches me and express it in music.

Q: Please describe your ideal San Diego weekend.

A: I would surf at Tourmaline (Surfing Park) in the early morning, watching the sun rise from the ocean. Then, I would pick up delicious organic fruits, peaches and figs at the farmer’s market in Hillcrest for breakfast before my morning piano practice. I would meet friends at Donna Jean (a vegan restaurant) for lunch and walk home through the Balboa Park. I would go through the Spanish Village Art Center to see some art after passing through my favorite spot in the park — the pond and botanical garden. I would do some yoga and meditation on the patio when the temperature outside is just perfect with a little breeze. I would practice the piano with a focused mind before I cuddled up in bed with my favorite book before I fell asleep.


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