Musicians of SIS: Hyjo Shim

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The chattering stops; all eyes turn to the neglected stage that was once hidden by the grubby curtains. The spotlight beams down as the strike of the drumsticks counts three. Everyone licks their lips in great anticipation, placing all cups back on its saucers. In a matter of seconds, it is no longer the smell of coffee that permeates the café, but rather the spontaneous interaction of jazz music with the lives of everyday coffee drinkers. Four talented musicians stands on stage but one person in particular, Hyjo Shim (10), resonates his exhilarating and liberating sensation through the golden saxophone.

Despite his natural comfort with the saxophone, Hyjo’s first instrument was rather the clarinet he’d played since seventh grade in Burcharest, Romania. During the next few years, he attended prestigious festivals and competitions to achieve promising awards, but the clarinet soon lost the captivating element it once had, leaving Hyjo “bored with classical music.”

Hyjo’s consequent introduction to the saxophone was very much like his experience performing at the café with his quartet: genuine and free-flowing. In a search for a new instrument, he noticed the number of saxophones his school had in reserve, and picked up one to try out.

“The thing that allowed me to have a natural feel for music on the saxophone is that I was never taught any techniques on it,” Hyjo explains. “I realized that the saxophone was quite similar to the clarinet, so I could just figure it out by myself, ultimately allowing me to develop my knowledge over the instrument.”

Although Hyjo was never formally taught on how to play the saxophone, much of his musical success derived from his connection with his band director in Romania. Not only was he introduced to one of his role models, but it was also in this music class that Hyjo developed strong bonds with other talented musicians to start the quartet called JHQ.

“The band director there influenced me personally with his passion for music,” Hyjo recounts. “We were very close personally, and he inspired me with his open minded lifestyle and philosophy. He was also a great trombonist and a musician to play alongside during concerts. Most importantly, he helped me formulate a passion for music—one that allowed me to create a quartet (JHQ) with several students who shared the same motive with me for jazz music.”

Since Bucharest offered a lot of playing opportunities in public locations such as cafes and hotels, the JHQ took those chances to frequently play in live gigs. Hyjo’s love for music accumulated as he started playing in front of larger crowds.

“Our band consisted of very dynamic musicians, which is why we never had a specific arrangement of instruments. We just hung out afterschool in the band room, listening to music, jamming, and socializing, then one day we started playing as a real group, and started taking the task seriously.”

Many SIS students credit Hyjo as one of the very few talented jazz musicians that the school has seen. In his perspective, however, beyond the great musical achievements his roots in Romania provided, the saxophone has transformed him more on a personal level.

“The saxophone brought a very deep passion into my life, and it changed my lifestyle,” Hyjo says. “I realized that there was so much more to playing an instrument than getting the notes and articulation right; there are things such as instinct and feel that add more to the music. As I got older, I realized that this perception should also translate to my personal life. I now try to always be free-flowing, open-minded, and genuine.”