Putting Your Best Foot Forward in Auditions — by Yeesun Kim

Putting Your Best Foot Forward in Auditions — by Yeesun Kim

Let’s face it. A musicians life is full of auditions.  Even when you might not be taking a formal audition, each concert may turn out to be an audition for your next project.

For many students, February in particular is a busy, stressful month filled with college auditions, summer festival auditions, recital juries and so forth.

When you are a beginner, auditions generally represent a relatively encouraging nudge of  “Do your best.” Later, they have greater consequences, and dealing with the pressure can become quite torturous.  Some are more at ease than others, but I believe it is safe to say that auditions are not activities anyone particularly enjoys doing. Of course listening to auditions is not so easy either.  One is asked to sit through 7-8 hours per day of 12-15 minute auditions of mostly same repertoire.  Even with the best of intentions, this can be fatiguing.

But once in a while someone walks in and plays, and it is like a new day has started.  The person has a sparkle in their eyes and their playing is totally captivating from the first note. In fact, sometimes they convey this energy even before they start playing. How does this happen?

A few things come to mind:

Self confidence, self respect, clarity of mind, sense of purpose, graciousness.

So what are some of the small things that communicate these qualities?  It is highly unlikely for a person with self confidence not to acknowledge others upon entering the room and make eye contact. It is highly unlikely for a person with self respect not to gauge their steps carefully and carry their instrument in a relaxed manner. It is also highly unlikely for a person with clarity of mind not to have their music, rock-stop, tuning of instrument in order or to drag in unnecessary items such as rags, dampits, rosins, metronomes (you get the picture). It is again highly unlikely for a person with sense of purpose to be making small talk and jokes in such circumstances. And lastly it is really really unlikely for a gracious person (who is in a sense hosting their own short performance) to be over or under dressed. Examples of inappropriate dress might be attire suitable for proms, beach parties or casual family gatherings.

How well one plays in the audition matters most, but there is a much larger connection being made as well. We make a line between past and the future through the present. As a musician, as an artist, each of us has committed to pursue, relay, and interpret the miraculous meaning of life through the music we make. This is a grand commitment that reaches in to our innermost being. When we play, it is not just about what we can say now but also what we are capable of evoking in others that has lasting values. As an auditioner, I find my attention responds to the potential of an individual who can develop as a whole person. The audition is a window into a future relationship that may be cultivated and nurtured for many years. And “YES” one can represent oneself wholly in just 12-15 minutes!


About the Author:

Yeesun Kim

Hailed by the New York Times for her “focused intensity” and “remarkable” performances, cellist Yeesun Kim enjoys worldwide acclaim as a soloist, chamber musician and teacher. A founding member of the Borromeo String Quartet, Ms. Kim has performed in over 20 countries, in many of the world’s most illustrious concert halls and festivals.

Since making her orchestral debut at the age of 13 with the Korean Broadcasting Service Symphony, Ms. Kim has appeared at such premier venues as Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Jordan Hall in Boston, the Library of Congress and Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Her international appearances have included performances throughout Europe and Asia, including the Philharmonie in Berlin, the Tonhalle in Zurich, the Opera Bastille in Paris, Wigmore Hall in London, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Suntory Hall and Casals Hall in Tokyo, and the Saejong Cultural Center in Seoul. Currently living in Boston, Ms. Kim enjoys returning to her native Korea, where she is frequently invited to perform as soloist with the Korean Symphony, give recitals and teach.

A much sought after chamber musician, Ms. Kim has performed at such festivals as Spoleto in the United States and Italy, Ravinia, Marlboro, Santa Fe, La Jolla, the Prague Spring Festival, the Vancouver Chamber Music, the Stavanger Festival in Scandinavia and the Evian and Divonne Festival in France. Her frequent collaborations with other artists have included appearances with Joshua Bell, Christoph Eschenbach, Leon Fleisher, Gary Graffman, Menahem Pressler, Rudolph Serkin, Russell Sherman, and Richard Stoltzman, In addition to her extensive concert schedule with the Borromeo Quartet, she has concertized with members of the Guarneri and Julliard String Quartets, and appears frequently as a member of the Pamela Frank-Yeesun Kim-Wu Han piano trio.

As a member of the Borromeo Quartet, Ms. Kim has been part of the Ensemble in Residence for NPR’s Performance Today and has had extensive involvement with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Two Program. In this capacity, Ms. Kim has performed on all the series of the Chamber Music Society, including being featured on a “Live from Lincoln Center” broadcast. Her radio and television credits also include numerous appearances on WGBH in Boston, Radio France, and NHK Radio and Television in Japan.

A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, with advanced degrees from the New England Conservatory of Music, Ms. Kim currently serves on the faculty of the New England Conservatory in the cello and chamber music departments. Her teachers have included Minja Hyun, Hyungwon Chang, David Soyer and Lawrence Lesser.

Recipient of the Chamber Music America’s Cleveland Quartet Award and Lincoln Center’s Martin Segal Award as a member of the Borromeo Quartet, Ms. Kim has garnered numerous awards individually as well, including winner of the Ewha and Jungagng National Competitions in Korea, and the Seoul Young Artists Award for achievement in music and academics.

Ms. Kim plays a Peregrino Zanetto cello, circa 1576.