HEART STRINGSPlaying the violin is a lifelong commitment for Indian Springs student Honney Kim.
By Anne Riley
Photos by Dawn Harrison
Haeun “Honney” Kim’s musical career began during her preschool years, but she didn’t make her Carnegie Hall debut until the ripe old age of 11. Since then, she’s logged one honor after another for her prowess on the violin, and recently returned from a Latin American tour with the 2017 National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America.
As the daughter of a professional pianist, Kim used to follow her mother to rehearsals with other musicians. It was during one of these rehearsals that Kim noticed the cello – a beautiful instrument that captured her 3-year-old mind like nothing else ever had.
“I was so intrigued by the instrument that when I went home, I got a mop, chopsticks and a chair, and pretended to play the cello,” Kim said. “My mother thought it was a good idea for me to start on the violin and piano, and change to the cello when I was older, because she thought the cello was too big for me.”
She may have set out to play the cello, but when she got her hands on a violin at the age of 4, she set aside everything else in order to master it.
Her mother, Hye-Sook Jung, describes Kim as a “generous and heartwarming person.” She loves her daughter’s dedication to hard work and admires her for not trying to take shortcuts. But according to Kim, she learned the art of hard work from her parents, who emigrated from South Korea to pursue advanced degrees with little understanding of the English language.
“They have always shown and taught me to never give up and keep working hard as there will eventually be a reward for me waiting at the end,” Kim remarked. “Even if it is not what I initially wanted, it might be a gateway to something even better for me.”
That work ethic has come in handy during times of doubt. In spite of the success she enjoys now, Kim’s pursuit of musical excellence hasn’t always been easy – or fun.
“Being stuck in a practice room for hours a day really made me want to quit when I was younger because I did not see the point,” she said. “All of my friends were outside playing, and I was stuck in a practice room playing on a piece of wood with four strings attached to it.”
But she didn’t quit – and when it came time to perform, everything clicked. Suddenly, all those practice hours made sense. Being on stage and playing for an audience convinced her that quitting just wasn’t an option, and now that she performs regularly, the thought of giving up doesn’t even enter her mind.
“The adrenaline I feel when I perform and the emotions I feel on stage … cannot be compared to anything else that I do,” Kim said. “It is not something that I can just decide to put down and never do again. The amount of time and energy I spent on it most obviously shows in one way or another and cannot be replaced.”
Kim’s dedication to her craft has been paying off since she was very young. At 11 years old, she won The American Protégé International Competition. A year later, she performed as a soloist with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra – the first in a string of orchestral appearances. Other groups she’s played with include The Georgia Philharmonic Orchestra, the Interlochen Symphony Orchestra and the Southern Adventist University Orchestra.
But it’s not the events or the awards that give Kim a sense of accomplishment. Instead, it’s overcoming personal obstacles and seeing the improvement that comes with consistent practice.
“Music is life,” Kim said. “You start off as a little baby with little knowledge, and every time you improve on something, you get closer to being an adult and/or a professional. So at any moment in my life where I feel as if I have improved in a certain area – especially if it was a troublesome part – I feel accomplished with myself and keep going, knowing I will continue growing.”
Kim’s parents, violin instructor and academic teachers actively participate in her musical career by doing whatever is necessary to encourage her and facilitate her practice schedule. The presence of her Indian Springs teachers in the audience at some of her performances has inspired her to work even harder, as it shows that there are people who believe in her and trust her to do her best. And of course, her violin instructor plays a key role in her musical development.
“My violin teacher has taught me how to be a more beautiful and more active human being,” she said. “To do music, you need to be a good person and take care of yourself, and she is a prime example of someone I want to be in the future.”
And what a bright future it is. When Honney Kim looks at the life in front of her, she dreams of a career in music and hopes to pass along some of her passion to the younger generation.
“I would love to be able to go to a conservatory and major in music performance or music education,” Kim said. “Being a teacher and professor is my dream, and it would be an honor to be a part of an orchestra and play in a chamber group while being able to teach young musicians and see how their future blossoms.”