- “Never stop following your passion!” October 19, 2018
Professor Bo-mi Kim of Church Music returns to the international stage with her passion
“Never stop following your passion!”
Professor Bo-mi Kim (Department of Church Music, College of Music) steps on the international stage with passion for music.
“If you have a passion for something and are good at it, don’t give up and try again.”
Professor Bo-mi Kim has gained international acclaim as the first-ever female and Asian conductor of Vienna Boys’ Choir. Currently Chair of the Department of Church Music of the College of Music at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea, Kim returns to the stage as the permanent conductor of World Vision Choir. A Christian humanitarian aid organization that has consultative status with UNESCO and partnerships with United Nations agencies, World Vision celebrated its 58th anniversary in 2018 and appointed Kim to develop its artistic identity and showcase its best musical performances.
Prior to joining the Department of Church Music at Yonsei University in March 2016, Kim performed in over 100 world-renowned stages, including Carnegie Hall, Chicago Symphony Center, Suntory Hall in Japan, Musikverein Hall in Vienna, and Concert House in Berlin. In recognition of her achievements, Kim received Austria’s prestigious award for best conductor — the “Ortner Preis”.
Now all attention is on Professor Kim and her new venture as an educator and how her experience at the World Vision Choir will bring upon new change. In response to the high expectations directed towards herself, she comments that, “although being in the spotlight can be overwhelming, I enjoy the feeling of commitment and want to use it to make the choir a more energetic and appealing environment.”
From a Passionate Love for Music to Leaving School
Professor Kim first began her musical journey as a choir accompanist at her childhood church. Happiest when with music, Kim dreamed of becoming a musician while singing with friends and playing the piano. However, due to her parents’ expectations, she failed to achieve her dream of enrolling into the College of Music. She tried to satiate her passion with extracurricular activities, but the yearning to learn music took over as time passed. Ultimately, she left school and enrolled into the Department of Church Music at Yonsei University in 1988.
As one of the 2nd batch students of the new choral conducting program, Kim focused on studying the academic aspects of music by taking classes such as “Theory of Harmony” and “History of Music.” She recalls this solid theoretical knowledge as the foundation to her successful career.
“If you do not have a foundation in musical theory studies as a conductor, you cannot deliver music effectively to the audience. Theory is as important as performance skills,” she said.
At that time a member of Yonsei Concert Choir, the official student choir of the College of Music, Kim toured in many countries, such as the U.S. and Japan, and was even given the opportunity to attend the Bach Festival in Germany. While travelling all over the globe and gaining experiences early on, she dreamed of continuing her studies at Germany after graduation. Despite her basic German language skills, she expressed her wish to enroll in a prestigious German music college through a heartfelt e-mail to the Dean and was accepted an offer to take an admissions test; and thus she was able to start her studies abroad.
“I loved music and because of my passion for it, I had nothing to fear. I could fail after trying, but I thought I’d try it until I made it.”
Developing as a Musician during her Four Years with Vienna Boys’ Choir
Despite Professor Kim’s vast experience in Vienna’s various opera houses and choirs, the Vienna Boys’ Choir was an entirely different challenge. The majority of the choir’s former conductors were former members. It was highly unlikely for a foreign conductor to lead the choir, as most of the songs are in German.
After making tremendous efforts to refine her German language skills and enduring four long months of intensive auditions, she became the first-ever female and Asian conductor to lead the Vienna Boys’ Choir. The advent of a female conductor was such a huge issue within the choir that the Board of Directors expressed disapproval of the appointment of a young Asian woman leading the choir. Therefore, Kim worked even harder and prepared meticulously to prove herself through music. Thinking it would be more significant if a “different” conductor made a great impression, she used her anxiety as an opportunity to establish herself as a talented conductor.
“My four years at Vienna Boys’ Choir was an invaluable experience for me to grow as a musician. We held 500 performances in renowned concert halls around the world, an essential hands-on experience for conductors. I also learned so much from the kids. I learned how to be patient and how to love while leading the boys of the choir.”
Returning to Yonsei with No Regrets
Kim, who had been active in Vienna Boys’ Choir, began her new career as professor of the College of Music at Yonsei University in 2016. When she was first offered the teaching opportunity at Yonsei, colleagues attempted to dissuade her. Her position as the Vienna Boys’ Choir’s conductor was honorable, secured her retirement, and Vienna itself was a place of the greatest artistic inspiration.
However, Kim returned to Korea with no regrets. She believed that there was nothing more worthwhile and honorable than sharing her experiences with the younger generation. Now in her third year as a professor, she comments that “it’s very appealing and I am thankful to teach my juniors at Yonsei. Every moment I connect with kids through music touches my heart.”
Kim is also interested in the development of the College of Music at Yonsei University. Recently, she collaborated with professors of the German Language and Literature Department and College of Music on a project that re-interprets “Dance of Death,” a choral series by German composer Hugo Distler. The performance is an interdisciplinary endeavor to offer a new perspective of interpreting music.
Furthermore, Kim is staging various performances with the Yonsei Concert Choir, the official student choir of the College of Music, of which she was a member during her school days. After receiving an invitation, she plans to perform in the memorial concert that celebrates the 40th anniversary of Yonsei’s Wonju Campus. “The College of Music must shift its focus to the world and take the next step to perform on the international stage. If there are any projects to globalize the College of Music, I will contribute as an active participant,” she said.
As a devotee of music all her life, Kim says that there is no happier life than when your favorite hobby becomes your job, and encourages other Yonsei students to find their passion by trying different experiences. “The biggest advantage of Yonsei is its open environment and value of taking on challenges. I hope that many students develop their Yonseian spirit of challenge and walk their paths without fear.”