A Broken Tooth, A Completed Dream Fall Term Senior Concerto Spotight, Steve Kim ’11

As the finale to his musical career at Andover, Steve Kim ’11 will play his senior concerto, “Concerto for Oboe on Themes from Donizetti’s La Favorita” by Antonio Pasculli, on November 12th, accompanied by the Academy Chamber Orchestra. Kim has had an unconventional yet inspiring journey with music at PA, all starting with a broken tooth. About three days before the beginning of his Junior year, he played a game of soccer with friends and accidentally hit one of his teammates with the ball. Kim said, “My overweight friend got very angry and started chasing after me and ended up lunging towards me. I flew a good five seconds before I hit the cement steps next to the field, face first.” Kim’s left front tooth sank down several millimeters, and he was lucky enough to be sent to the hospital to get it pushed back up right away. However, because of the injury, he could not play the clarinet for a year. Kim said, “I was a little bit devastated because that was the thing I was looking forward to most, coming to Andover.” “I’ve always had a bit of an obsession for the oboe. My iTunes library is filled with oboe music. I loved the sound, so I took the chance and decided to try playing the oboe, which does not require you to bite down like the clarinet does.” Out of this temporary setback, Kim’s musical involvement skyrocketed. He developed a passion for the oboe greater than he had felt for the clarinet. Since his lower year, he has been a constant presence in orchestra, band, chamber ensembles and student recitals. Kim said, “I’m playing the concerto to say, “Goodbye, Andover, thank you for all the great memories.” I mean, there are still two more terms left, so it’s like a premature farewell piece. I just want it to be fun. People will dance along with it, I hope.” From high-speed scales to lyrical cadenzas, the concerto gives Kim the opportunity to showcase his technical and expressive mastery of the oboe. Kim said, “The Pasculli is a technical show, an ‘I’ll-show-you-what-I-can-do’ piece. It’s basically a fourteen-minute long cadenza.” After an impassioned orchestral introduction, Kim opens with a soulful note that gives way to rolling runs. Sometimes the orchestra and oboe come together to play a measured melody, but often Kim is playing ad libitum on his own. The style is continuously free and surprising. Pasculli based the concerto on the arias that Donizetti wrote for his opera “La Favorita,” which tells the tragic story of a love triangle between a king, his mistress and her lover. “I’m playing a variation on the soprano line, the part of the mistress, so it is filled with all sorts of emotions: love, joy, sadness, rejection,” said Kim. The concerto presents a host of technical challenges. Kim said, “There are 128th notes in there, which almost never exist. There are arpeggios and trills and jumps and many, many scales. It’s just really, really fast and your fingers have got to be there.” “I definitely lived by the metronome—I started slow and went up,” said Kim. “One of my favorite practicing techniques is to record myself and listen because it is just so much more enlightening that way.” Kim had to practice diligently to learn the notes so that he could focus on the part of the music that is most important to him—the expression of the piece. Kim said, “The thing about the oboe is that you can’t think of it as playing notes. You have to think of it as what you want to portray, what you want to tell the audience. It’s like singing, you’re communicating through the oboe.” Playing his senior concerto will be bittersweet for Kim, whose journey with the oboe started at Andover only two and a half years ago. Kim proves that love for an activity can sometimes be more valuable than years of experience. “If you really have a passion for something, whether it be music or sports, or some kind of academic pursuit, I think you can push yourself further and really just grow tremendously—much faster than people who just do it without care,” said Kim. As Kim graduates, his musical journey will continue to take him to great places elsewhere, but for now the Andover community has the opportunity to enjoy his passionate performance. Steve Kim is an Arts Editor of The Phillipian. Each term, Arts spotlights the student musicians who will be performing with the PA Orchestras, and the Fall term concert on November 12 will feature Kim.