Musicians of SIS: John Kim

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The theme of the party: Hollywood Night: attendees dressed up in varying degrees of formality; there are varying demographics—members of all four classes, teachers, and even members of the leadership team. But all are dancing and mingling, enjoying the good combination of loud music and company of others. The beat resonates throughout the room, rendering normal conversations impossible and pumping up hundreds of partygoers. At the front of the stage is John Kim (12), flipping switches and pushing buttons to concoct the perfect mix for the crowd. Designated by the HSSC as an official guest of Snowball 2015, John was not a pianist or cellist that his peers long new him for, but a disc jockey.

John was long known for his skills as a classical musician. A strong member of the Symphony Orchestra since sixth grade and the winner of multiple national piano competitions – including Music Chunchu, the largest national music competition for elementary students – John has been largely identified by his musical exceptionality over the years. The lengthy and complex pieces from Beethoven and Chopin that he performed back in middle school talent shows still remain unforgotten by many classmates.

“In elementary school I played very competitively, and even considered majoring in music,” John recounts. “I started really young, back when I was three years old. There was a piano in my house, and I sort of pressed on it. My brother played the piano, and I was jealous that he got lessons so I begged for lessons. I’ve been playing ever since.”

John no longer plays competitively or seeks a career in music. Back in fourth grade, he realized that he was not really playing music as a hobby but rather to prove that he is better than other musicians. However, his passion for both the piano and cello is evident. Every year he participates in the masters’ class organized by University of Notre Dame, where esteemed musicians come to SIS to guide selected students. His peers get to see glimpses of his talent during office hours or activity period, when he often plays his signature “Pirates of the Caribbean” theme song. These days he mostly plays to relieve stress and master songs at his own pace, focusing on one or two pieces a year and really focusing on perfecting them rather than only slightly mastering numerous songs.

“It’s really interesting to see how John has kept up with his music over the years,” says Alix Kim, fellow pianist and oboist for the High School Orchestra. “Everyone knows how rigorous John is with his studies, yet he has managed to hold on to his musical passion and even channel that passion by challenging himself to take different musical perspectives. Back when John had more time to play piano, he was especially great with the really technical, painstaking parts of music, and I remember that his crescendos were especially impressive. Such great attention to detail probably helps him in his other music as well.”

It has been approximately a year and a half since John has pursued his newest musical route: DJ’ing. He first started experimenting with Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) controllers; since then, he has been uploading mash-ups of the newest tracks on his YouTube channel. He even uploaded a video on Facebook, which garnered him enough attention to be scouted as the opening DJ for Snowball.

“My skills from classical music certainly help me in my DJ’ing because a sense of rhythm is key,” John explains. “There is not really a reason why I DJ though. Music has always been a way by which I relieve my stress and have fun. I wanted to try more modern forms of music, and DJ’ing just seemed like a fun hobby where I could apply my skills as a musician.”