When Hyunjin Kim looks back on her decision to join Student Orchestras of Greater Olympia (SOGO), she realizes that she learned more than anticipated. “I’ve seen this connection in playing and creating music together that doesn’t exist verbally. It’s a willingness of musicians to open up and connect with each other. Then, when we perform, we connect with the audience. I don’t think I would’ve learned through solo playing as naturally as I learned through SOGO,” says the Olympia High School senior.
While typically a violinist with SOGO, Kim will be performing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue piano solo with the Conservatory Orchestra at the May 21 concert. “As we get closer to the concert date, I am getting increasingly more nervous. I think I hold higher standards for myself in this concert because I grew up watching the Conservatory Orchestra and student soloists perform on The Washington Center stage. I remember as a debut violinist thinking that I wanted to get better faster so I could play the big fancy pieces with the older kids. And now that I am that older kid, I want to make sure I present music that’s fun to listen to, that I’m not playing just notes but speaking honestly the musical language to the audience,” she says.
Kim says her piano solo showcases Gershwin’s perspective of time and place during the 1920s in New York. “He lets you see so clearly the nervous energy of New York and all the noise of where he grew up, what he was surrounded by. It’s all written into this funky mishmash of a composition. It’s got both a story and little colorful ideas. The iconic imagery of the roaring twenties is unmistakable in the vibrant themes of this piece. It’s definitely joy all the way, molded into different shapes, and for me it’s been a lot of fun but also a challenge to honestly animate the ideas that Gershwin wrote into the Rhapsody,” describes Kim.
Kim adds that she will cherish this experience and has gained skills while preparing for her solo. “I lacked some maturity when I was getting this piece ready initially,” Kim says, who will be continuing her music education and majoring in computer science at Pacific Lutheran University in the fall. “My work ethic was really put to the test. The accountability of such a big project definitely made me more responsible as a person and musician. Of course I still turn in my homework late, but when it comes to music I think I’ve gotten a little better.”
Evan Harper and Eric So will also be performing a violin duet, Reich’s Duet for Violin and Strings, with the Conservatory Orchestra during the May 21 concert. The Olympia High School seniors have been playing violin with SOGO since their middle school years.
“This is a piece that I fell in love with by chance a couple of years ago when I heard a recording of it online,” says Harper. “The music sounds very simple. It’s very easy for the listener to get lost in it. When you look deeper, it becomes much more complex. There is a technique that the composer uses called phasing. This means that the second violin plays the same exact thing as the first violin, just a little later. This creates a very surreal and happily nostalgic following sensation. For me, the piece conjures up a memory of walking down a forest path with light shining through the trees and a close friend following just a few steps behind.”
So says, “The piece is a bit more contemporary compared to what I usually play. It is nice to experience and perform a piece that is different stylistically. Rhythmically, it has a terrific sound picture and more cerebral and contemplative components.”
So adds that the experience of being a soloist has assisted with performance anxiety and nervousness when playing in front of an audience.
“Every time I perform, I try to learn something new about myself, whether it has to do with music or something else. So far, since this is my last year in SOGO and in high school, soloing has been a lot about finding a way to bring all of my experiences inside and out of music together,” adds Harper who will be pursuing a degree in violin performance at the University of Michigan.
Kim encourages kids interested in performing with SOGO to sign up for an audition. “It’s a lot of fun because you put in so much work. As a musician, there’s always the frustration of spending months getting the flow of music in your fingers and then only having scant minutes as a performer on stage. But it’s that momentary adrenaline rush, when music holds so much power and meaning. It’s just all the more fun when you do it with other people. Also, like any other experience, it’s what you make it. Make friends that love making music just as you do, and always think to understand music more. SOGO will definitely help you out with that,” she says in summary.
Hear Kim, Harper and So perform on stage at The Washington Center on May 21, 2017. Tickets to SOGO’s final concert of the season can be purchased here. Learn more about SOGO’s Summer Music Camp in this article.