Fifth grader Kyuna Kim will travel to Tuscaloosa Thursday to audition against older violinists for a top violin chair in the orchestra and then several days of rehearsal, culminating in a concert at the University of Alabama’s Moody Hall.
“She is an incredibly hard worker and a talented young lady,” said Kitty Stone music teacher Lisa Gillespie.
The 11-year-old Kyuna has spent most of her short life either playing or dreaming of playing the violin.
“Ever since I was 2 years old, I was always begging my parents to let me play the violin, and when I was 5 my parents finally gave in,” she said.
Kyuna’s father, Jaedeok Kim, said family friend Diane Chong, a former member of the Seoul Symphony Orchestra in Korea, introduced Kyuna to violin when she was almost 6 years old.
“Thanks to Ms. Chong’s passionate instruction Kyuna got quickly attached to the joy of playing violin,” he said.
These days, Kyuna works with two instructors. Kyuna said Chong continues to help her focus on the more technical aspects of playing, and newer instructor Oliver Steiner helps her put more emotion into her music.
According to Kyuna’s father, she has been receiving accolades for her playing for years.
Kyuna’s first big accomplishment came at age 7, not long after she had begun playing, when she performed in the Etowah Symphony Youth Orchestra as a first violin player.
Two years later, she made the highest possible rating in two solo auditions held by the Alabama Music Teachers Association and Alabama String Teachers Association.
Last year, she became a first violin player in the Sinfonietta String Orchestra, the second three levels at the Alabama All-State Festival. She was the youngest player in the orchestra, he said.
This year, Kyuna has been admitted to the All-State’s top group, the Festival Orchestra, as a first violin player.
Kyuna said after auditions on Thursday, she would know which chair she has made.
Kyuna’s father said she understands the importance of practicing to be able to play at a higher level. She practices four to five days a week with the time varying from less than an hour to up to three hours, depending on what kind of music and tasks she is working on at the time.
Kyuna said playing her violin can sometimes help her calm down after a really rough day, unless she’s having an off practice day. She loves to play Beethoven, and her favorite piece is Edward Elgar’s “Salute d’Amour.”
“When I play the violin,” she said, “the music that comes out, it’s sort of like a language that is very easy to understand but hard to produce.”