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Pianist Hyemin Kim on Gershwin and what makes a great collaboration

Pianist Hyemin Kim headshot, wearing a red gown
Pianist Hyemin Kim

The double doctorate and Interlochen Arts Academy collaborative pianist visited Studio A to give a preview of this weekend's Benzie Area Symphony Orchestra concert.

Most classical musicians pick one or two specializations, like being a concert soloist, playing in chamber ensembles or performing with orchestras. Others teach full-time or in addition to their performing careers. Some pianists choose the route of collaborative piano.

Not Hyemin Kim, though - she does everything.

Officially, Kim is a collaborative pianist at Interlochen Arts Academy, where she performs with students, faculty and guest artists.

But she also teaches secondary piano at Interlochen, gives solo recitals, performs with other musicians in chamber settings and even plays as a soloist with orchestras.

She even has two doctorates: one in piano performance and one in collaborative piano.

Kim was already pursuing a doctorate in piano performance at Michigan State University when she discovered she also really loved collaborative piano.

"I realized that every singer and every instrumentalist has their own technique and their own voice," she said. "I realized I wanted to learn how to collaborate with them, rather than just playing as a soloist."

Pianist Hyemin Kim performs in IPR's Studio A (August 2023)
Pianist Hyemin Kim performs in IPR's Studio A (August 2023)

Kim will be the featured soloist this weekend with the Benzie Area Symphony Orchestra. On the program? George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue."

It's an unusual type of piano concerto because the pianist performs solo passages but also plays along with the orchestra in other parts of the piece.

"For this piece, I feel like I have two occupations," Kim explained. "I play my solo parts and my cadenzas, but I also play together with the orchestra, like a collaborator."

This will actually be the first time Kim has performed "Rhapsody in Blue" with an orchestra.

When Tom Riccobono, music director of the Benzie Area Symphony Orchestra, asked her if she'd be interested in playing the the piece with them, she jumped at the chance.

Kim said she'd learned the piece "lightly" before, but she only really dived in once she agreed to this weekend's performance.

But, she explained, she's always in the process of learning music that's new to her, whether as a soloist or as a collaborative pianist.

No matter what kind of music she's playing, Kim said that she's always excited to share her personal stories and personal musical language with the audience.

As far as what to call a person who has two doctorates (Dr. Dr. Kim? Drs. Kim?), she said, "That's my question, too!"

Hyemin Kim will be the featured soloist this Sunday afternoon (Aug. 27) at 4 p.m. with the Benzie Area Symphony Orchestra. Learn more about the program and how to get tickets HERE.

She'll also be giving a recital in Interlochen's Dendrinos Chapel and Recital Hall on Sunday, Sept. 10 at 4 p.m. with special guest Michael Coonrod. Learn more about this free recital HERE.

Kim will perform with Laura Osgood Brown and Lindsey Anderson in the new Interlochen in Town series at the Alluvion in Traverse City on Friday, Sept. 15 at 7:30 p.m. Learn more and purchase tickets HERE.

Music performed in Studio A
Robert Schumann, Träumerei ("Dreaming" from Scenes from Childhood)
Claude Debussy, Feux d'artifice ("Fireworks" from Preludes, book 2)

Kelley DiPasquale engineered this edition of Studio A.

Emily Duncan Wilson is IPR's digital content manager.

Dr. Amanda Sewell is IPR's music director.