Violinist Siwoo Kim Performs with the Westerville Symphony Sunday

Violinist Siwoo Kim performs in his "home town" of Westerville Sunday at 7pm.(Photo: Westerville Symphony)
Violinist Siwoo Kim performs in his "home town" of Westerville Sunday at 7pm.(Photo: Westerville Symphony)

If you ask violinist Siwoo Kim to tell you about his favorite moments of his musical career, he might not mention the nearly 24 hours it took him to fly through snowstorms from New York City to Texas for a competition the he eventually won, or even winning the Juilliard School’s Violin Concerto Competition and performing at Carnegie Hall.

Instead, it’s likely Kim’s lips will curl into a wistful smile as he thinks back to the all-day trips he and his parents took when he was a youth from Westerville to his violin lessons in Chicago with the legendary violin pedagogue Almita Vamos.

“I remember that was the time my parents and I would kind of get together in the car and we’d just talk about things and go into the rest area and get some food together,” Kim said in a recent interview. “And I would listen to music non-stop on the way back, to the point that a lot of my CDs got totally ruined because I listened to them so much. I would really think about, ‘What is this great artist doing with the interpretation that’s different?’”

Since those weekly 14-hour family road trips Kim, 23 and an alumnus of Westerville South High School, has moved on and up in the classical music world, furthering his studies at the Juilliard School, where he currently serves as concertmaster of the Juilliard Orchestra, and winning international violin competitions left and right.

Kim returns to Westerville Sunday, May 19, at 7 pm to perform Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 with the Westerville Symphony at Westerville South High School Auditorium on the final concert of the orchestra’s 2012-13 Ron Lykins Masterworks Series.

A Man for Mozart
Mozart’s Fifth Violin Concerto has a special place in Kim’s life as a violin soloist. It was the concerto with which he won the Juilliard Concerto Competition in 2011 and which he performed as soloist with the Juilliard Orchestra at Carnegie Hall under the direction of conductor James DePriest. Today, Kim says Mozart is his favorite composer to perform, but before Kim started preparing for the Juilliard Competition that wasn’t always the case.

“I struggled with playing Mozart. That was something I wasn’t very confident about playing.” Kim said. “And because of this competition I really delved into Mozart’s works. By the end of the whole process working toward this competition, I felt much more confident with Mozart, and actually that’s one of my fortes now.”

So what changed? Kim says he’s found what he calls the “voice” needed to bring out all the nuances of Mozart’s delicate yet complex music.

“On the exterior it’s such simple music, that’s probably why it’s so accessible to everyone. But there is this inner complexity, emotions and subtle nuances everywhere going on in the music. I think there’s that happy balance of being able to internalize all the complexities, all the nuances, all the emotions and then making it simplified on the exterior,” Kim said. “And that takes work, I think. You can’t just say, ‘It has to sound simple, so I’m going to play it simple.’ And just going to operas actually really helped me to find the voice that’s needed for Mozart’s works.”

Flash and Slash
Kim says listeners can expect plenty of flash – and even some hitting and slashing – when he performs Mozart’s Fifth Violin Concerto Sunday evening with the Westerville Symphony.

“I read a letter (Mozart) wrote to his father, in which he was saying, ‘And then I added a scale here and there and the crowd was going wild.’ It’s like a comic opera. You hear this character and that character and all this energy going on, all these events happening. And the last movement is where this piece gets its nickname, ‘Turkish’, because after a minuet, he incorporates a very wild Turkish section. You’re just like, Where did this come from? Because you were just in this really elegant minuet like something that could be played in a ballroom, and suddenly it sounds like slashing and hitting going on. And then as if nothing happened, it goes right back to the minuet,” Kim said.

In addition to Kim’s performance this weekend in Westerville, he has a long list of future projects, including giving a series of piano trio performances next month in Norway and Denmark and performing the world premiere of a violin concerto by Samuel Adler. 

Kim says he envisions a career that encompasses solo playing, orchestral playing and chamber music. Beyond that, he’s just taking things as they come.

“I’m just basically going with the flow at this point,” Kim said, “because things are just happening here and there and I like what’s happening.”

Siwoo Kim performs Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 with the Westerville Symphony Sunday, May 19 at 7 pm in Westerville South High School Auditorium. For more information visit

  • NelJel

    Great write-up Jennifer! Excited to meet Mr. Kim and hear him play!