Watching Year 6 student Joung Jin Kim play, it’s hard to believe he is only 10 years old. Joung Jin took a leading musical role in the Junior School production of Bugsy last year, and delighted the audience at the Christmas Carol Concert with a solo performance. Head of Music Russell Seaton says, “I’ve never seen anyone with this talent at such a young age. He plays with a professionalism that would put him in competition with a seasoned adult performer.” We asked Joung Jin about his passion for piano… and discovered a young philosopher!
Do you remember the very first time you heard piano music played? Can you describe that moment for you and who was playing?
Well, I am not sure about that but it should be very long ago. Maybe 1 or 2 years old? Or it could even be before I was born! I think the music player (radios) or my mum should have played it for me. I am not sure. I should have felt very interested when I first heard the piano music because that moment has changed my whole life! (I want) to be a great pianist.
You must have had tiny fingers! Could you actually reach all the keys? Did your fingers get tired?
Yes I had tiny fingers when I first started to play piano. But I think my fingers could reach from do to ti when I was 3 years old. I think I could reach more than other people do because when you keep on pressing and reaching for keys, your fingers get stretched. I don’t think I could reach all the keys but probably most of them. Well, at that point I didn’t really learn how to play piano without getting my fingers tired but I did very soon.
You’re very accomplished at the piano… Do you play any other instruments?
Yes I do. Violin for 4 years, harmonica a bit and recorder a bit. I had to stop learning new instruments because I had to focus on piano.
Do you take any music tests?
I don’t take any ABRSM because I don’t really think grades matter. I really think the important thing is to know for myself. Plus, it’s extremely hard to know it for yourself because you need to treat yourself as a teacher and correct everything for yourself. Relying on something or someone doesn’t last forever. Which means improvements doesn’t last forever. To make music to be your own music is to know it for yourself, correct it for yourself and make music to be yours.
You looked super confident at the piano when you played for Bugsy and the Christmas Carol Concert last year. Do you get nervous when you’re onstage and do you have a lucky charm or a strategy to stop the nerves?
Of course I get nervous. There’s not really any strategy. All I do is practise, practise and practise. The only way is to practise more than perfect. When you get nervous, you can only show about like 60% of what you have done when you made up to 100% which is perfect.
So I practise until I get about 300% so that I can get near 100% onstage.
Do you have a musician or performer you look up to, and why?
I don’t really have anyone that I look up to. I just want to look up to the future me and that’s all.
Would you like to be a musician when you grow up? Why?
I want to be a musician because it gives a joy to people who hears the music. They could feel all sorts of feelings. It could cure a wound deep inside your heart which is permanent.
You can play music by ear, just by listening to it. How does that work in your brain?
I don’t know. When I just hear music, I just remember the details and melodies. Simply by hearing it once, I could probably get most of the code right or maybe all.
Other than music, what are your favourite subjects at school?
Art, Science and Philosophy. I like art because it’s another way of giving joys to people. I can draw whatever and however I feel like. I also won the Big Draw. Science is endless. There’s so much to learn, and so much fun to me. It’s also fun to think everything as science. Philosophy is just wonderful. It always makes me think deeper and deeper which you don’t really think in normal life. I feel more human when I study philosophy.