Dr Chaerin Kim: An Inspiring Journey to Musical Success

Written by Chloe Hayler

Dr Chaerin Kim is an overwhelmingly talented multi-instrumentalist who has released 7 albums and 91 singles to date, many of which have been played on radio stations across the UK and the US. She is one of the few people in the world who you can see performing as a soloist with two instruments on the same stage as an orchestra. With an impressive music education at prestigious institutions, such as Yale University and the Royal Academy of Music, Dr Kim has decades of experience in the music industry which she has used during her time as a teacher and a judge at over 40 international competitions.  She flew all the way from Florida to the Insanity Radio studio, with her suitcase in tow, to talk to me about her fond memories of loving music as a child, her career highlights, and the incredible opportunities she has lined up in the coming months. 

When did you know you had a passion for music and you wanted to pursue it as a career?

From a young age, I was enveloped in a rich musical environment. My father’s proficiency with various instruments, including drums, saxophone, trumpet and the Korean flute, alongside my mother’s talent on the piano and the guitar, laid the foundation for my passion for music. The sheer delight I experienced when I received a piano for Christmas as a gift at the age of five, marked the beginning of my formal music education. As I embarked on piano lessons at the tender age of six, I was propelled by a deep-seated love for music that continues to drive my artistic journey to this day. 

You have a long list of qualifications and certificates, how invaluable were these prestigious schools and early experiences to your career?

These esteemed institutions not only equipped me with the technical skills necessary for a career in music, but they also instilled in me essential values, such as discipline, perseverance, and the courage to dream big. 

You play many musical instruments, were these self-taught or did you have lessons, and do you have any favourites? 

I took lessons in piano, harp, violin, viola and cello when I was young, and I later took lessons in accordion and drums. I was a self-taught guitarist. Every instrument holds a special place in my heart, offering a unique avenue for artistic expression. While the harp and piano are my primary concert instruments, I relish the versatility and diversity each instrument brings to my performances, allowing me to explore a myriad of musical genres and styles. This penchant for variety stems from my insatiable curiosity and the desire to explore the nuances of musical expression across different instruments. 

What is your composition process like and what are your sources of inspiration that help to create your pieces? 

The composition process to me is a journey of inspiration and creativity. When it comes to crafting musical pieces, I find that inspiration often strikes in the most unexpected moments. Whether it’s a fleeting melody that dances through my mind or a harmonious chord progression that resonates in my heart, the composition process is a deeply personal and intuitive experience. From the ethereal melodies of ‘Rendezvous’, to the intricate harmonies of my concerto, each piece is a fruit of love and a testament to my passion for music and my commitment to artistic expression.

What is your standout piece that you’d recommend people to listen to?

If I were to recommend a standout piece from my repertoire, it would undoubtedly be ‘Rendezvous’. The musical opus holds a special place in my heart, not just for its melodic beauty, but also for the profound message of unity and hope that it embodies. With over 100 different versions spanning various instruments and languages, ‘Rendezvous’ is a testament to the transformative power of music to transcend cultural boundaries and unite hearts across the globe. It is my fervent hope that this piece will continue to inspire and uplift listeners for generations to come. 

What is it like being a judge and has your own talent helped you with judging other music?

Serving as a judge in numerous international competitions has been a humbling experience. It allows me to witness the immense talent and dedication of aspiring musicians while also providing constructive feedback to aid their growth. While technique and accuracy are essential criteria, I place particular emphasis on the performer’s connection to the music and their ability to convey emotion and authenticity on stage. Ultimately, it’s the passion and individuality of the performer that truly resonates with me and leaves a lasting impression. 

What is it like being a teacher and passing your knowledge on to others? 

Teaching is an incredibly fulfilling aspect of my career and I deeply value the opportunity to impart knowledge and guidance to my students. Beyond merely passing on information, teaching allows me to positively influence various aspects of my students’ lives. By understanding each student’s unique background and experiences I tailor my approach to address their specific needs and challenges. Building trust and fostering a supportive learning environment is paramount to me, and I am grateful for the wonderful students I’ve had the privilege to work with over my 25-year teaching career.

What upcoming projects do you have and what can we expect from you in the coming months? 

Currently, I am immersed in an exciting project, a dual concerto for harp and piano, which is a unique endeavour that I believe has never been attempted before in music history. Additionally, I am honoured to be associated with a ceremony at the Royal Academy of Music. Upon my return to the US, I was invited to serve as a judge at the World Championships of Performing Arts in Hollywood, followed by conducting duties at a music festival in Estonia. Furthermore, I have received an invitation from the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Venezuela for a world premiere concert, where I’ll have the privilege of performing as a soloist on both piano and harp while conducting my composition, ‘Rendezvous Orchestra Version’. 

By the end of the interview, I was left with the certainty that Dr Kim was not only one of the most dedicated, passionate, and talented musicians that I had ever come across, she is also someone who has an incredible amount of humility when discussing her success. Each of her responses were truly inspirational and I feel so fortunate to have had this conversation with her straight after she landed at the airport. 

Written by Chloe Hayler, Edited by Paige Tamasi, Photography from Chaerin Kim’s Management Team, Published by Paige Tamasi.