I’m excited for our story covering the First Fridays at First! ~ fff Season Finale featuring a collaboration of classical piano music and fine art.
That’s right! A beloved award winning pianist performing beautiful classical piano solos – interspersed with stunning paintings by an internationally known freelance illustrator, inspired by the very pieces being performed. A celebration of the two art worlds!
As a pianist, artist and teacher of both subjects for over 25 years, this concert caught my radar, thanks to a tip from Jim Eninger. (He’s on the Board of Directors of Classical Crossroads, the organization hosting this special concert.) I had to learn more.
Jim graciously introduced me by email to the featured pianist, Jeeyoon Kim. She was warm and charming. I was ecstatic when she accepted my blog interview invitation covering her unique concert.
Jeeyoon in turn made introductions by email with artist Moonsub Shin who also gladly agreed to participate in this blog.
Without further ado, here’s the story.
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LRW: As the founder/instructor of Pastimes for a Lifetime, an Art and Piano school, I was intrigued to learn of your upcoming piano and art collaboration performance. How did it all begin? What was the collaboration process between pianist and artist?
MS: One day, I uploaded my drawing of Carnegie Hall, and Jeeyoon saw it and contacted me. She told me about some collaboration projects briefly. In winter 2017, she had a concert at Carnegie Hall and invited me. That was the first time we met.
JK: Moonsub and I had various phone and email conversations about the collaboration before we met in person in New York City. Also I sent him my own recording of the piece. When we met in NYC, I performed the piece for him live, allowing him to envision images to arise during my live performance for each Brahms Opus 21 No. 1 variation and did a quick sketch in his notebook.
MS: I still remember the process of each illustration for the Brahms Variations. Jeeyoon rented a studio and played all the variations she would play at the concert for the idea sketches. I created visual images while I listened live. Then I transported those images from my head to the sketchbook. Also, we talked about the moods and atmospheres of each variation to developed images more clearly. After finishing this process, I had 13 different images. For the final illustrations, I kept listening to her piano playing and decided on every color palette for each playing. This process made the illustration visually clearer and clearer.
JK: Moonsub described what he ‘saw’ in words for me. I also played a particular variation several times until the idea in his head become more solid after listening more times back to back. It was a very intuitive process although it took a longer time for him to actually draw the art. I wanted to give him full artistic freedom based on my musical interpretation of the piece and he certainly did. Moonsub was able to realize what I have envisioned in this project.
LRW: That’s amazing! From Brahms’ musical notes, through your interpretation on the piano to Moonsub’s pen and paper. How cool that you shared the visions for this project. As an art teacher, may I please ask Moonsub what mediums were used to create your paintings? Watercolor? Acrylics? For my art students, do you have a preferred brand of paints, brushes and grounds?
MS: For this project, I used watercolor and ink. Actually, I don’t have a specific preferred brand. However, if I give some suggestions, I recommend using professional-grade medium because it can help to present various types of feeling easier than normal-grade ones.
LRW: Thank you for the intel and tips which my art students will appreciate. Jeeyoon, what was the ultimate project you had in mind for this collaboration with Moonsub?
JK: The project was a part of my second album, Over. Above. Beyond.
When I was working on the Brahms Original Theme and Variations Opus 21, No. 1, which I wanted to include in this concert and album, I thought this would be a perfect piece to collaborate with a visual artist to help listeners to dive into the piece in another level.
LRW: I see. What a great idea, guiding the audience visually to better experience Brahms’ exquisite piano work at a deeper level.
JK: In fact, visual arts and a music collaboration is not anything new, as it has existed even from hundreds years ago. I always loved the piece, but it is more known as introvertive or a difficult piece to digest for a typical audience, and I wanted to bring a different light to this gorgeous piece. Many audiences in this concert have commented that they instantly fell in love with it, wherein they couldn’t connect in the past with this particular piece.
LRW: I’m so glad to hear. Helping the audience connect with a more esoteric piece opens up a whole new experience for them. That’s very insightful of you. Why Moonsub for this project?
JK: I have been a big fan of Moonsub’s work and have been following his career for some time. When this idea popped into my head, I contacted him first as I thought an illustration would be a perfect way to go. You can create something new from what one can imagine with illustrations and I liked the slower process of creating a work of art compared to another form of visual art such as photography. Moonsub’s sensitivity to music and intuitive interpretation was a perfect match for this project!
LRW: Very cool. I can see how artwork would be very appropriate to accompany your performance of Brahms’ masterpiece, rather than photographs. The creative process of art mirrors the music composition process as well as the performance interpretation process. Will you be doing more collaborations with Moonsub?
JK: Yes! I can’t wait to do more projects with him in the future!
MS: We don’t have any specific detailed plans yet but we are so willing to do it again because this collaboration has inspired each other in many ways so much.
LRW: I can imagine! I’ll look forward to hearing more about your collabs in the future. What is the Over. Above. Beyond. live concert project about? How did it get its name? What is the story behind the project and is it related to your June concert with First Fridays at First?
JK: As a pianist, one of my most rewarding moments is when I feel that I am deeply connected with listeners in the very moment of sharing music. It has become clear to me that this is why I make music, to lift someone’s spirits.
LRW: Amen to that! I couldn’t agree more.
JK: Through this album, Over. Above. Beyond., I wish to communicate a sense of hope and joy, lightness, and a new beginning. When I am at the piano, time and space have no limits. These pieces of music were selected because they capture so vividly my vision of flight.
LRW: Ah! So Over. Above. Beyond. refers to the experience of music transporting the listener as if they were flying with the music. A great vision and purpose.
JK: I ask the listener to join in my musical flight and also join in visual explorations. In my CD manual for Over. Above. Beyond., I ask listeners to imagine their own image in their head, and when they find that vision in real life, then take a photo with their phone and share on social media with the hashtag, #overabovebeyondproject.
LRW: That’s a brilliant idea, encouraging listeners to share their visions from your piano performances and inspiring others to do the same. This would fill social media with beautiful music-inspired images. We need more of this…
JK: I hope that listeners take my invitation to unlock their own creativity with this project and fly in spirit with me over, above and beyond.
LRW: Over, above and beyond, indeed! Tell me more about your upcoming concert and how this ties into your Over. Above. Beyond. project.
JK: I will be playing Brahms Original Theme Variations Opus 21, No. 1 with illustrations for my First Fridays at First concert on June 4. Although the entire program for Over. Above. Beyond. is about an hour and 15 minutes, I will be sharing just this Brahms piece from the CD, which is about 20 minutes, as the main piece for this 30 minute virtual concert at First Fridays at First. I am glad I get to have a chance to show a sample of this delightful musical flight project.
LRW: A perfect appetizer to entice listeners to hear more. When was your 30×3 Virtual Concert created? What does “30×3” mean?
JK: The 30×3 Virtual concert was created last January for 3 consecutive months, from January to March. It was 30 minutes for 3 different programs.
LRW: Perfect title for your project! What was the inspiration behind it?
JK: I have been missing the connection through live performances in this pandemic. I wanted to create a virtual event that is more interactive and engaging for the platform. I found it difficult for myself to focus more than 30 minutes listening to a virtual concert even as a professional musician. A 30 minute concert on a Sunday afternoon was the perfect length to have a “musical snack” together.
LRW: A 30-minute “musical snack” on a Sunday is a delightful idea. There should be more of this.
JK: It has been a very successful series. I ended up having audiences from all over the world, which was very meaningful. My mom in Korea got to attend all of my 30×3 concerts at 6 a.m. in the morning from Korea too.
LRW: That kind of connection is truly meaningful. Aw, I’m so glad your mom was able to attend from Korea, too. Are tickets for this virtual concert still available?
JK: Yes. You can still get a ticket for this 30×3 Virtual Concert on my website’s link and enjoy 3 different programs at your convenience!
LRW: That’s great. I look forward to enjoying this program soon. I’m also looking forward to your June 4, 2021 online First Fridays at First season finale concert. According to artistic director Karla Devine, this is not your first concert with Classical Crossroads. How did you two connect?
JK: That is correct. I’ve performed once for Classical Crossroads as a winner of the Beverly Hills National Audition in 2017-2018. From that association, I’ve been connected with Jim Eninger who also follows my career.
LRW: Congratulations on winning the Beverly Hills National Auditions award. Good connection. Karla mentioned, “The June FFF concert finale is reserved for the winner of the Peninsula Symphony Concerto Competition. However, that event was not held this year.” According to Karla, Jim Eninger had recently watched your 30×3 virtual concerts and highly recommended asking you to fill in. That’s quite a compliment!
JK: Yes, Jim happened to attend my 30×3 Virtual Concert and approached me afterwards, interested in presenting the Brahms Original Theme and Variations Opus 21 No. 1 with Moonsub’s illustrations for his series finale.
LRW: I’m so glad it worked out and am excited to watch your performance with Moonsub’s artwork. I noticed your program includes piano solos by Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms. Why these composers? Why now?
JK: The relationship between Schumann and Brahms is always interesting to me. Not only their musical relationship but also their personal connections. Brahms became a close friend of Clara Schumann and helped her through difficult times especially when Schumann attempted suicide and went through a mental breakdown.
LRW: Of course. I know the story well. It makes sense to honor them both in the same program.
JK: Both Schumann’s music and especially Brahms’ late compositions are full of nuances, colors, sensitivity, and tonal qualities that only a piano can express. I included the first movement of Schumann’s Fantasiestucke, Opus 12 and Brahms’ Intermezzo, Opus 118, No. 2 in this program. I was imagining that Schumann will open the door to this magical place, where we are now ready to embark on a journey with Brahms Original Theme and Variations with illustrations, then his Intermezzo would give us a musical treat to finish the journey.
LRW: I love those pieces and your narrative behind their placement in the program. Once concert halls reopen and your touring resumes, how may my students, readers and I be kept informed? Is there a mailing list we may subscribe to?
JK: YES! Things are starting to open up little by little! In fact, I have my first in-person concert scheduled on July 11th at 3 p.m. at Barclay Theater in Irvine. A list of my upcoming and past concerts may be viewed on my website’s concert page. You and your readers may subscribe to my newsletter to be informed for all my upcoming concerts and news on my website.
LRW: Glad to hear. Best wishes on your Irvine concert in July. Thank you for the links. Duly noted. I’m now subscribed to your newsletter and look forward to sharing your insights with my students. Are there any other projects you’d like to share with my readers?
JK: Oh, yes – I’m excited to announce that my first book, Whenever You’re Ready, will be available on August 24th. You may pre-order an autographed copy here.
LRW: Congratulations! Thank you for gifting me an autographed pre-order copy to review for your blog interview. This book is a great insight into your creative process. The exercises at the end of each chapter are a fun way to experience a new viewpoint, allowing the reader to add or change their habits to live a more creative life. I encourage my students to buy your book for their piano practice and beyond.
Jeeyoon, it was an honor to interview you. Your passion for sharing beautiful piano music and moving your audiences to experience music on a higher spiritual level is commendable. I wish you all the best and look forward to your upcoming concert and future projects.
And now for the Concert Details ~
Date: June 4, 2021
Time: 12:15 PM
Place: The concert will be videotaped and streamed-as-live at the scheduled concert time.
Link: YouTube “Premiere” link. You may also find the link on Classical Crossroads’ YouTube Channel
Cost: Free (Donations appreciated)
Pro tip from Jim Eninger: “You are encouraged to set aside time as you would for a live-audience concert, get comfortable, and watch on a large-screen TV with a high-quality soundbar. Alternatively, watch on an iPad or other quality computer screen with headphones.”
P.S. At the discretion of the artists, the concert will be available to stream-on-demand for one month after the YouTube concert premiere at the Classical Crossroads YouTube Channel.
Hope to “see” my students and readers at the concert. 🙂
Enjoy a behind-the-scenes peek from Jeeyoon Kim’s concert videotaping!
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Pastimes For a Lifetime Art and Piano School is located in Valley Glen, California. 818-766-0614. School is open Tuesday – Saturday year round, except major holidays.