Conversations with Chee-Yun, Bridget, and Jonah

Learn more about our guest artists Chee-Yun, Bridget, and Jonah to be featured at the upcoming 9th Annual Music in May. Don’t miss hearing three superstars making music together for the first time this May!

Chee-Yun Kim

What are your first musical memories?

JK: I remember listening to a few specific pieces as a child. Arpeggione sonata played by Slava and Benjamin Britten, Beethoven 109 by Pollini, Mahler Das Lied von der Erde, don’t remember which record- and finally lots of Spanish guitar, mostly Tarrega played by Narciso Yepes. More pieces from early childhood: Beethoven 130, especially Cavatina and Mahler 4 with Kathleen Battle, also lots of Orlando di Lassus.

CYK: …watching my sister playing the piano. I loved hanging out underneath the piano while she played.

BK: Born and raised in Ohio, my parents were always driving through the night or over the weekends, to take us three Kibbey kids to hear the Chicago Symphony to the Ramsey Lewis Trio for a New Year’s Eve midnight set…I felt so cool staying up late with the big kids, let alone getting to hear such diverse live music from a young age.

What made you/makes you fall in love with music?

CYK: I remember falling in love with the Faure violin sonata in A major when I first started learning it. I was 16 yrs old. I was deeply moved by the passion and lyricism in the sonata. Loved feeling the emotional journey.

BK: The first day of high school orchestra (my public high school had a very reputable orchestra, packed with one hundred students). That first day of my 9th grade year, I remember playing principal oboe in an orchestra for the first time. Surrounded by such a warm, rich sound of the strings, I recall thinking “I don’t care how hard I’ll have to work, or what sacrifices I’ll need to make, I have to be a musician.”

JK: The density of feeling. In life, there are shades and degrees of feelings. In art, everything is magnified and makes life itself more colorful and meaningful to me.

What is unique about chamber music in particular?

JK: It’s a fine balance between solo and large ensemble playing where one is still a part of something bigger but has direct influence in shaping phrases.

CYK: Its intimacy. Since chamber music concerts are often presented in smaller halls, musicians can communicate better with each other and with the audience through music.

BK: Chamber Music is my favorite form of music making- it’s like having an intimate dinner conversation with your closest friends- moments of laughter, to the deepest thoughts, all shared in an unpredictable way that makes for the most interesting evening.

Bridget Kibbey

What are your first chamber music memories?

BK: Saint-Saëns Fantaisie for violin and harp is actually the first piece of chamber music I ever performed! I was enthralled with listening to where the violinist would place each note, and “tuning” my ear to hear the grain of the bow approach the strings.

JK: Joey Silverstein forcing my trio to learn and perform a new piano trio every week! Chen Xi and Yuja Wang were my partners in crime and we still watch our old DVDs from the good old days, laughing and cringing at our adolescent musical decisions.

CYK: I had been playing in chamber music since I was 13 years old at Juilliard pre-college but participating at the Marlboro Music when I was a freshman in college made me fall in love with chamber music. I was assigned to play in 5 different groups and practiced 2 hours with each group every day. It was a very intense and challenging 6 weeks that summer but I learned so much and loved every moment of it!

Do any of the pieces you will perform at Music in May have special significance to you?

JK: I’ve lived with a lot of these pieces for twenty years and have played them with many people. The Beatles said it best in their song ‘In My Life’. I remember and cherish every memory made with a piece, and these experience make each new reading of it that much more beautiful and meaningful.

CYK: All of the pieces are very special to me and very happy to perform them with wonderful musicians.

BK: Debussy’s Danses Sacrée et Profane is truly one of the best gems we have as harpists! In fact, it’s often performed with full string orchestra. I’ll never forget performing this piece for Christoph Eschenbach in Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center. It’s a huge, cavernous space that resonates so beautifully and I could the resonance of the harp circling around the hall. I most recently performed this piece with a group of friends in San Francisco, and when I walked on stage, I was thinking about how I’d be back the West Coast to perform with new friends made in a few months in Santa Cruz. I can’t wait!

Your favorite compliment you’ve gotten from an audience member.

CYK: …that my violin was like an extension of me/my body. I want the music to seem effortless and natural when I’m performing on stage. It takes me many hours of hard work to achieve that.

BK: I’ve never heard the harp played like that before. At least I think that was a compliment- ha! But truly, I feel the harp often carries preconceptions, and when audiences become enthusiastic about how resonant or rich it can be, I’m a happy girl. I’ve been told a few times that it feels like the harp and I are one- which always makes me happy.

JK: I don’t believe the compliments are for me alone but for the incredible chain of events from the beginning of the universe that brought all our lives together, that we could all share a song and feel things together.

Jonah Kim

What do you feel is the purpose of music? Why is it important in our society?

BK: I feel music has many purposes. It’s a place to explore the deepest narratives of life, to which we perhaps are still seeking answers. It’s a chance to explore beauty and pain together, and simply to be entertained.

JK: For me, the purpose of art is to give us a hint as to what life ought to be, to make us feel the things we ought to feel. To provide reference to the ideal and the romantic, and to give us strength to believe and manifest it in our lives. So we can improve the type of thoughts we think, the type of feelings we feel…

CYK: Music brings people together, nurtures and comforts our soul and teaches us discipline. I’m sure there are many more reasons why music is important in our society, but those are the three that come to mind now.

When you perform, what things do you strive for and that make your performance most satisfying?

CYK: In performance, I try to be completely immersed in the music. I want to feel like and seem as if I’m the composer playing his/her own composition. Be completely at ease, feel confident in what I have to say musically and be free.

BK: I love to draw the audience into the sound of the harp and the expression and drama of each piece. I always hope it feels like we’re communally feeling the excitement and drama of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, to the yearning beauty of Saint-Saëns’ Fantaisie.

JK: The Holy Grail for me is an experience in which I am no longer bound to being just me… The purpose of art is that we may all gain perspectives which we could never otherwise experience… music is magic in the real world…








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