The Little Rock 9

It looked just as it did in my 4th grade social studies textbook – only this time in technicolor. That iconic double staircase that gives way to the grand entrance of the historic building – where nine brave young black students made history in 1957 – took my breath away. In late April, I spent an unforgettable week in Little Rock as the resident guest artist of the Chamber Music Little Rock and the Arkansas Symphony – during which I gave a solo recital, played Bartok’s first concerto with the ASO Youth Orchestra, and presented outreach at Little Rock Central High School. As I held the wooden railings on the way down to the music classroom, our hosts explained that the historic building has been entirely preserved from that time in the late 1950s. I couldn’t help but think about the hate and vitriol that accompanied so many walks down those steps for those nine students, and the pride and perseverance they maintained to begin a shift in the landscape of educational equity in this country.

This residency brought a beautiful reconnection with a childhood friend and violin schoolmate, Katherine Williamson, who now directs the chamber music society there. Working with the students there was inspiring – on day one the Bartok concerto seemed like a foreign language to them, a massive undertaking for a group of young musicians – and by the concert, we were dancing together and playing chamber music as if they’d known the piece their whole lives. I feel lucky to be a part of so many wonderful organizations that are, simply put, doing good things for the world.

Rewinding a bit, March got kicked off with a quick girls’ trip weekend in Milan to celebrate the birthday of my dear friend and duo partner, Ieva Jokubaviciute and her little one, my goddaughter, Alma. In 72 hours we managed to tour the Duomo, grab a train out to Genova for a local traditional pesto making class, visit the aquarium, catch an opera – Mozart’s Il Seraglio – at the iconic La Scala, and eat our weight in pizza, pasta, and local seafood. A pretty perfect holiday weekend before diving into an ultra crazy stretch…

Shortly after was another PBS hosting moment for the Minnesota Orchestra, packing up the mural panels that our team in Italy created nearly 7 years ago (which are headed for permanent installation at The Well in Lakeland, FL!), and another immersion week for our Fire & Music Project. That immersion week gave way to a 4-concert tour where we performed in areas in Northstate California that have been affected by catastrophic wildfires. Our filmmaker Rob presented a mini documentary on our work in becoming fire practitioners and working with Indigenous communities, while our poet Silvi wove her words, into a world premiere by our composer Julie Zhu, alongside Schubert’s epic G Major and Beethoven’s fervid “Harp” quartet. In a post-concert chat with the concertgoers, a woman from the audience volunteered “I used to blame fire, but now I won’t.” It was one of the most moving moments of our entire yearlong project.

On my flight back from SFO, I was lucky enough to catch the solar eclipse path of totality from 30,000 feet which is likely to be a once-in-a-lifetime thing. With eclipse glasses in tow, and everyone taking turns to sit on the left side of the plane, we took in the temporary apocalypse-like landscape and descended back to sea level into daytime as the moon left the sun. Then it was back to Cornell for a glorious mess of teaching and a solo recital on campus, and off to Massachusetts for a concert with the Berkshire Chamber Players.

The school year wrapped, and a recital tour in the UK took me to Lancaster and London to perform with guitarist Michael Poll which coincided with a special birthday for my husband-to-be…we stayed the weekend to do all the things that Londoners don’t do (Hello, Big Ben & Kensington Palace!), and catch a Tottenham match. We headed back Stateside to host my annual Korean BBQ picnic party for my students (complete with bounce house obstacle course and yard games galore), then graduation, heading back West for the 40th Anniversary celebration for the Crowden Music Center where I played some Piazzolla with pianist Audrey Vardanega, Washington for dear friend James’ wedding, closing out the CMSM season with our final show of the year in Minnesota, and finally a birthday trip for Mama Kim on Mallorca where Jordan and I tried our hands (and and arms and feet) at deep water soloing…where you free solo climb over the great turquoise ocean. It’s the most miraculous catch system one can ask for.

Back to Minneapolis I went for one more hosting of the PBS broadcast of This Is Minnesota Orchestra and now writing from the conclusion of a Knights tour that took us to Central Park, Ravinia, and Caramoor. I’ll be heading fully offline for a couple of weeks starting tomorrow to marry my unicorn, then I’ll be back at it for the festival hopping life come August.

Admittedly I haven’t had much time to slow down and reflect as of late, so I don’t have many cool things to share besides all of my silly faffing about, but I’ve been rather obsessed with one recipe of late: dubu kimchi (두부김치) – a spectacular homestyle dish that I’ve been playing around with – here’s my take, in case you want a fun summer cooking project:

1 cube firm tofu
3 cups kimchi (a little passed its prime is good)
4 cups mushrooms* (I love a combo of shiitake and maitake)
2 Tb canola or vegetable oil
2 tsp each of sugar, ginger, minced garlic, salt, and rice vinegar
2 Tb sesame oil
1 tsp black sesame seeds

1. Bring a pot of water big enough for the cube of tofu to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and add a healthy sprinkle of salt. Put the cube in and let it hang out for 10 minutes or so.

2. Bring a drizzle of the canola oil to a medium-high heat in a sautée pan, and fry up the mushrooms with 1 tsp each of the gear in line 5, and then do the same with the kimchi. I do them separately, and then mix them together after they’re both done.

3. Remove the tofu cube from the simmering salted water, let cool slightly, and then slice into 1/2-inch squares. Arrange them on a platter, and spoon the delicious kimchi/mushroom mixture on top, adorn with black sesame seeds.

* This dish is typically made with pork, so you can definitely go that route, but I made up this veggie version – choose your own adventure!

And as always, a photo diary…

Italy time with the gals!
This Is Minnesota Orchestra PBS broadcast hosting time…
Meeting with Indigenous and fire practition leaders at “fire school” during our final Fire & Music immersion…
The path of totality from 30,000 =)
Berkshire Chamber Players show at the Stockbridge Library
Outreach time, rehearsal time, and museum time at the Little Rock residency…
UK recital tour time + JB’s bday!
Cornell graduation + studio party…bounce house included =)
Pre-and-post glacial lake jump, post-show with bro Daniel, packing up the mural panels for a long drive down to Florida courtesy of Larry & Mike, and James’ wedding + catching up with old friends, the Davies!
Piazzolla time at the Crowden 40th Anniversary show!
The deep water soloing adventure freeze-frame and happy bday, Mama Kim
Knights tour time, and that’s a wrap!

In Darkness

The lights were brought to zero for the first of my six performances at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. It was more staggering than I imagined – it was pitch black, as if I had suddenly become temporarily blind. This project that I had been dreaming of for eighteen months was finally happening – and it turned out to be one of the most profound experiences of my artistic life.

After the premiere of “light/see + dark/hear” photo courtesy of Jayme Halbritter and The Great Northern

As I unexpectedly fell into a volunteer group in Seoul helping to lead mountain hikes for people who are visually impaired, a curiosity blossomed for me about experiencing the world without one sense; I felt a certain guilt for taking all five of mine for granted.

Nearly two years later, my project was finally at hand: a partnership with composer Steve Heitzeg, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and The Great Northern allowed this: touring a visual art gallery in silence (earplugs and all), followed by a live performance in blackout darkness. It was part improvised – inspired by the paintings and photographs I took in with each pre-concert walk – and part world premiere composition, committed to memory. It translated into me seated cross-legged on the floor, embarking on a stream-of-consciousness performance that was unaffected by anything but imagination and sound. It allowed the audience to cozy up with a cushion – hygge-style – on the floor encircling me, surrendering one sense to heighten another. At one point there was crackling bow hair on the wood of the violin to emulate snow crunching under one’s boots, then getting lost in an Old Time fiddle tune as if inside by the fire on a cold Minnesota winter night, and sounds of bird migration that turned into solo Bach. How might we listen differently to the things – and people – around us when we cannot see?

This was on the heels of another project of equal profundity of a different ilk: the intersection of fire and music. Spearheaded by Ellen McGhee and Qwalen Bernstein via The Watershed Center in the Trinity Alps of California, I dived into an immersion week of mornings in “fire school” – living in a backcountry cabin learning about Indigenous American land management practices, building bow drills, lighting friction coals, soil ecology lessons, and farm chores – alongside afternoons playing chamber music inspired or informed by fire. Learning about how Native cultures looked after our planet can transform how we think about fire, its ferocity, and its gifts. How can we borrow this knowledge?

Early mornings on the farm and heading to “fire school”

It is with continued ignominy for my lack of awareness, gratitude for what I’ve been able to learn, and curiosity about what the world of fire has to teach us that I look forward to my next immersion in April. Until soon, forest.

Prior to these two life-changers, my wonderfully swirling life sent me to Detroit to run my first-ever half marathon (finishing with an embarrassingly slow mile time – though somehow I managed to run the whole race – maybe in my next life I’ll be less tortoise-like). Then it was out to North Carolina for a residency at Duke University with my dear friend and collaborator Ieva, home to Minnesota for a little Mozart Sinfonia Concertante with bro Daniel and a stellar crew of NLCMI-ers, then to Asia for a three-week concert tour – a recital and master class back in Korea, the premiere of Piyawat Louilapprasert‘s violin concerto Tweeeeter, and premiering six new works at the ICIT Festival in Bangkok. Woof.

Before I knew it I was back in the Bay leaning into two of my many musical homes there: Castillero Middle School and the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra, and then it was off to the races with the new semester at Cornell. My happy place of being with my fabulous undergrads was reborn, and I had the pleasure of hosting a residency there with 9 Horses where they jammed with students, led us through improv master classes, and played a killer show. Somewhere in there was a Knights tour with the incomparable Chris Thile (with whom we inaugurated our Carnegie residency), a recital tour with Ieva and Dan Temkin which took us from Virginia to the Berkshires, and then I wound up down in Florida playing some solo shows for a most knowledgeable and engaged audience at the Sarasota Institute for Lifetime Learning (and a little sunshine and saltwater in the middle of a New York winter never hurts). Then it was to Baltimore to give a keynote performance-presentation at the annual PCCW Symposium for a collection of incredible Cornell women, and then back to NYC. Oh yea, and in the margins, climbing rocks and cooking/eating way too much food.

I’ll return to the title of this post for a moment before picture time. I’ve been in a bit of an emotional tailspin of late, and when I find my heart in pain, I will often try to find the light right away, pushing the dark out. This time, I’m allowing myself to sit in it, trying to let my “eyes” adjust to the experience, giving into feeling the thing. Through darkness can emerge the fires of anger, and eventually those fires can transform into light. I have a number of friends who are also dealing with heartache in different forms at this moment, and I came across this poem by Rashani Réa that I’d like to share. No matter the anguish, someday strength will emerge, and we will all learn to sing again:

There is a brokenness
out of which comes the unbroken,
a shatteredness
out of which blooms the unshatterable.

There is a sorrow
beyond all grief which leads to joy
and a fragility
out of whose depths emerges strength.

There is a hollow space
too vast for words
through which we pass with each loss,
out of whose darkness
we are sanctioned into being.

There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart
as we break open to the place inside
which is unbreakable and whole,
while learning to sing.

And once there’s a bit of levity, ain’t nothing wrong with putting on a comfy, cozy sweatshirt, ordering a pizza, and watching reruns of Golden Girls.

For the road, a photo album to accompany the prose:

Barely making it across that finish line, and post-shower/brunch bliss with the Boersma boys and some holiday family time with my in-laws-to-be in Grand Rapids

Outreach activities with students at Cornell during our Knights tour, and a most hilarious capture of Chris’s creation, on stage at Zankel (yes, there was a group dance number mid-piece)

Post-concert hang with NC pals, and on-stage with the phenomenal Ieva at Duke

My happy place…homemade Korean food; a table honoring our ancestors for New Years

Concert time in Gwangju, South Korea and Bangkok…and practicing in the van in Thai traffic – we didn’t move for 10 minutes, so I asked the driver if I could seize the moment and practice in the back seat – he gave me the green light (too bad that wasn’t literally the case for us during rush hour – makes LA seem tolerable, ha!)

Introducing Jordan to my family and friends in Korea, getting fitted for our wedding hanbok, and one of the best highlights – a reunion hike with our volunteer group – Neuteenamu is crushing it as always, and J got the chance to help lead another unsighted member from the group and meet the new pup, Ria!

Eating our weight in Thai street food, visiting friends in Bangkok, and during my one free day, flew down to the southeastern coast (Au Nang) for some world-class and unforgettable limestone-cliffs-over-the-beach climbing…

Some more pics from fire camp – back cabin quartet rehearsals, “skull class,” and remnants of my first bow drill-build…and friction fire start!

My usual Bay-to-SoCal trip after working with Scott and the PACO and Castillero team in San Jose – then a visit to Joonie (!) and his caretakers, the nuns of Kkotdongnae Monastery, and the fabulous Lee crew =)

Some additional shots from “light/see + dark/hear” – earplugs for the gallery walk, audience members pre-show, a selfie with my wingwoman for the weekend Rachel, and post-event with composer Steve Heitzeg and patron superheroes Tom Von Sternberg and Eve Parker

Giving a set of solo recitals in Sarasota and hosting the very cool 9 Horses in a guest artist residency at Cornell – master classes and jam sessions with students

Up next is our next Knights show at Zankel, a faculty solo recital up at Cornell, an NYC album – Colors – release tour with Qing Jiang and Christine Lamprea, and gearing up for hosting the next PBS broadcast for the Minnesota Orchestra.

And last but not least, a very happy 1st birthday to my niece, Olivia – her big 첫돌 party in Minnesota last week –

Is this a Postcard?

The splendor is entirely alluring, the scenery seemingly impossible. Each time I arrive in these places, cresting over a hill – whether on a mountain hike, training run, or evening drive – to take in the gold, cranberry, and cyprus, it feels hardly real, as though I’m inside a postcard.

This summer brought me to some old favorite corners of the world as well as some new; projects, festivals, tours, and a bit of family time kept me happily on my toes, grateful more each day that I do what I love for a living…

Haydn’s Violin Concerto in C Major with Milano Classica, San Quirico d’Orcia, Tuscany, August 2023

Since we last left off, life has been full, with many notes in the fingers and lactic acid buildup in the legs (training for my first half-marathon!), and too many wonderful moments to count. The late spring brought some special Knights projects, the first spearheaded by Kristi Helberg where we partnered with Rehabilitation Through the Arts to pair off one-on-one with artists recently released from incarceration, exchanging the inspiration behind our craft. A return to Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with brother Dan-Dan with the Cornell Chamber Orchestra and collabs with my favorite pianists Roger Moseley and Ieva Jokubaviciute gave way to a recital in Mexico at the stunning Rancho La Puerta with Pei-Chun Tsai and some bluegrass shows at Triphammer Arts with my fiddlin’ buddies at String Theory.

An Italy-Sweden trip was a perfect work-and-play moment: planning meetings with the festival team in Tuscany, then museums, bookstores, and restaurants while meeting my new niece in Gothenburg. As the half-marathon training ramped up (man, those long runs take so much time!) I headed out on my usual summer journeys at the Crowden Music Center, Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra Workshop, Northern Lights Chamber Music Institute, and my beloved festival Paesaggi Musicali Toscani out in the Val d’Orcia. I fell in love with a deeply personal memoir by Shirin Azari, telling the story of fleeing war in Iran to settle in Scandinavia – a recommendation for certain, Once Upon a Time in Uppsala. And a continued love for all things Food Network supported by a discounted yearly subscription kept me company while cooking in the margins…

A freakishly cool project with The Knights and Chris Thile had its inauguration at Tanglewood this summer, where the late summer humidity in Ozawa Hall was like putting sticky tack on our fingerboards, and just a month or two later was cutting a record with the one and only Yo-Yo. Not a bad lineup. Those guys are alright. How are they so wickedly talented, sheer genius on their instruments? A camping/hiking trip to the heart of the Adirondacks with my sweetheart captured the last gorgeous weekend of early autumn, where I attempted to make a full chuseok meal to honor the Korean Harvest Moon in the “middle” country…

An agonizing lost luggage situation in Italy (though a good excuse to have to go shopping in Florence), lots of playing house (co-habitating makes for plenty of furniture building), new fabulous students in my studio at Cornell, and still more running rounded out the early fall, and here we are…

When the world seems to be coming apart at every seam, my heart breaks everyday for those who are living through a nightmare, and I gain even more gratitude for my life, which so often allows me to feel like I get to live in a postcard.

And as always, the pics…

Oh yeah, and this happened =)

Unicorn secured.


Those beautiful, legendary creatures with a singular, spiraling horn atop their heads we read about in Bruce Coville and Peter Beagle novels – or the extraordinary people, places, and things that make us wonder what we did to deserve experiencing them. Whether it’s a mountain range that’s so surreal it takes your breath away, an elusive bird lost to science for more than a century found, or a person that becomes the missing piece in one’s life puzzle, we should all be so lucky to encounter such magic.

spellbinding Patagonia…

Before we jump into more baseline bliss, I’ll offer a quick tour through the music, concerts, touring escapades, food adventures, and people that have made up my last few months…

The holiday season kicked off with a little upstate Friendsgiving hosting moment, followed by our first-ever CMSM “Movie Matinee” concert where we presented chamber ensemble versions of iconic movie tunes played alongside excerpts from the original films themselves. (My debut as an arranger – the Sibelius learning curve kicked my novice bum…) A stunning studio recital performed by my students at Cornell gave way to a trip back to Minneapolis (with a pitstop at the ER and then Grand Rapids, MI) over the holidays; before I knew it it was hosting my folks in Ithaca for New Years, laying down a Knights record back in NYC with the incomparable Edgar Meyer, and then a bucket-list trip of a lifetime: Chile and Argentina to hike with penguins, log some serious hiking mileage living in the backcountry, and rock climbing…that classic skyline, the Fitz Roy looking over his brothers and sisters to the north and south. I strapped my “eBay violin” to my hiking pack and brought it to every glacial lake, playing a few tunes for that crystal blue water before jumping in – like an insanely frigid rite of passage.

February brought a whirlwind of on-the-road life, the first being a tour out in the Bay Area performing the Beethoven concerto with Scott Krijnen the Castillero Chamber Orchestra and the Cambrian Symphony – with some always-inspiring volunteering with the Castillero Middle School kiddos in-between, and an 18-hour stop down in SoCal for some Joon pup and Lee family time. Audition season (219 tapes came my way from some wicked gifted violinists) and two tenure-track searches at Cornell provided for more all-nighters than I’d logged since grad school, which preceded the honor of co-leading a guest professor residency concert with the venerated Dawn Upshaw. A 3:45am alarm following the show ushered in a return to the CMSM for a debut visit from the exquisitely talented Evan Price here’s a peak at what we got up to at the top of the show:

March started with a bang, bringing back Bruch’s beloved Scottish Fantasy – a piece that had been much of my identity as a young teenage violinist, but one that I’d not visited in nearly 20 years – with the Wayzata Symphony and then again for a lecture-recital (where we introduced the original folk melodies alongside Bruch’s reimaginings) back in Ithaca. A mid-March blizzard (thanks, upstate NY) closed down Cornell for only the fourth time in 31 years…and then it was down to the Berkshires for a concert on John Perkel’s lovely series, the Berkshire Chamber Players in a program of late Mozart and Mendelssohn quintets.

Amidst all of this liveliness came another unicorn – an animal that reemerged to the world of modern science: the Black-naped Pheasant Pigeon (Auwo) was captured on film and documented by a team of researchers from Papua New Guinea and the renowned Cornell Lab of Ornithology for the first time in more than 125 years. Though known to a very small group of local New Guineans living on the remote Fergusson Island, the beautiful bird is highly furtive and is almost impossible to find, thought by many to be extinct. After nearly two months of field expeditions chasing the illusive and elusive creature, working with local hunters and living in the bush, the penultimate day of the project gave way to the images and video below (warning: the YouTube clip is one of the most heartwarming things you may ever see):

finding Auwo (pronounced au-oo-woh, the name for the pigeon in its native region)

And just as I was about to give up hope and was contemplating the positives of monastic life (maybe I’d make a good nun?), I found my unicorn. The man behind that camera – capturing his collaborative partner Doka’s reaction to finding the auwo footage – has become an inseparable part of my life. In our five short months together, we’ve climbed countless rocks (both the fake ones at the gym where we met and the real ones made of granite in the great outdoors), weathered a full-blown case of malaria (thanks, tropical parasitic mosquitos), traveled halfway across the globe together, integrated into one another’s families, and been in the audiences of some of our most important moments. I suppose one could say it’s on…

As always, here’s a photo/video diary to tie it all together:

…and a live recording of our Beethoven at Hammer Theater in San Jose

And last but not least, a very special congratulations to brother Nathan and wife Natali on the birth of their daughter over in Gothenburg, Sweden – Olivia Kim =)

Violin, Meet Gayageum & Mozart in Tuscany

They ring four and seven minutes late, respectively – almost like clockwork – every hour, on the hour. No one seems to mind. I always wondered if they just got progressively later over the years, one deci-second at a time, and this is where we’ve landed in 2022. These are the church bells on two opposite ends of the impossibly charming town of San Quirico d’Orcia, home to the summer festival that I now co-direct, Paesaggi Musicali Toscani. The lovely thing about these lazy chimes is it gives some soft space, some wiggle room, for how one perceives time. Of course soft starts can be taken too far, but there’s something beautiful about the idea of taking that extra few minutes to chat with a friend on the street or finish a proper lunch before having to hop to the next thing with such precision. Perhaps we (and by we I mean I) can take a lesson from this.

The Tuscans know how to do life well: from hand-pulled pici to the home of pecorino or the postcard-esque rolling hills kissed with cypress trees to the last bottle of Brunello, there’s something magical about making music in such a place. I had the honor of closing out this year’s festival playing Mozart’s exquisite Sinfonia Concertante with my favorite violist in the world and the Milanese chamber orchestra Milano Classica. Though it’s a tough call to make, I might say this was the highlight of my year:

After an unintentional hiatus here on this fine platform, I re-greet you with a few thoughts, musings, reads, must-trys, and a highlights reel of the last 9 months to pickup from where we left off…


Lunar New Year is one of Korea’s biggest and most important holidays, and for us Kims a wonderful excuse to cook for days, eat our weight in mandoogook (if you’ve never had it, get after it) and reunite with family. That moment turned into more cooking extravaganzas, a visit to the fabulous David Hockney exhibit at the Walker Art Center, the semester at Cornell going from 0-60 in a hot second, some Knights action via our residency at 92Y and a recital in Florida with dear friend and colleague Scott Krijnen honoring the 50th anniversary of our beloved Trudy and Larry Rankin.

From frigid Boston and NYC to the warmth of Florida, concert life took me out to the Bay for work with those gorgeous and checked-in kiddos in San Jose, followed by a performance of the Beethoven concerto with PACO, the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra. Post-Beethoven was a trip back to MN for a concert with the incomparable Caroline Shaw on which not only did we play her music, but she joined us on viola for a post-halftime Mozart quintet. In my flights hither and yonder, I was kept company by a heartbreakingly beautiful book by Barbara Demick – a gift from a dear friend Jay Wentworth – Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, a read I highly recommend. A fascinating glimpse into perhaps the most unknown nation in the world…when I’m consumed by what feels like an overwhelming constellation of physical health issues that are undoubtedly exacerbated by the feeling of soul-crushing sadness of an unknown future and painful reentries, it’s works of art like this that help many of us remember how much there is to cherish.

The glorious Beethoven violin concerto in Palo Alto, Ben Simon at the helm…


Next up was a premiere by Dan Temkin with my longtime duo partner and friend, Ieva Jokubaviciute at Cornell and post-concert hang with the lovely Patty, then a quick jaunt for a finally, almost post-COVID visit to Princeton to meet my new baby cousin, Chloe, and a trip to Pittsburgh to hear bestie Marta put together a concert with the Pittsburgh Symphony honoring and raising money for the war in Ukraine.

Then things turned to the centerpiece of my mid-2022 concert season: Apba Hagoo, Nah Hagoo (아빠하고 나하고), the piece I wrote for gayageum and violin inspired by my studies in Korea and dedicated to my papa. A preview show gave way to the official premiere in Minneapolis, which was then followed by a third offering at Liquid Music who calls the Parkway Theater home (probably the only time my name will be on an old-school theater marquee!). Though I’ve played with my dad for decades, playing this piece is particularly special, as each movement pays homage to a particular memory or childhood folksong of my father’s. Video coming soon…if I can get my editing act together. Can we please order some more hours in the day?

For the Liquid Music concert, I put together a program entitled PLUCKED: Exploring the Asian Diasporia Through the Performing Arts which featured a host of amazing Minnesota artists, celebrating the AAPI musician community. On the program was also the premiere of a new multimedia work by Thai composer Piyawat Louilarpprasert, with whom I paid a visit to the Walker Art Sculpture Garden, where we obviously practiced our art-as-movement surfing. When researching this project, I was captivated by reading poetry by Kimiko Hahn (in fact this became the subject of a violin + looper pedal improvisation on the program) – her writing is illustrative and succinct, and invites the reader into a place where discomfort in thought is an important thing. Somehow when we’re most uncomfortable, the most important spiritual and emotional health can occur.

Summer came in with a bang with another 92Y Knights show, this time with bass legend Edgar Meyer, some season-closing chamber music at Cornell with soprano Lucy Fitz Gibbon (a belated “birthday bash” concert honoring Beethoven’s 250th and Earl Kim’s 100th, just 2 years late…), catching the Boston Symphony at Carnegie playing a concert version of Berg’s unparalleled Wozzeck, a giant studio party for my students at Cornell (complete with a gladiator bounce house and 10 pounds of Korean BBQ – obviously), graduation, visits with a group of kick-ass lady profs to celebrate the end of the semester, and a farewell party saying goodbye to my bestie and climbing buddy, Matty V.

Oh yeah, and in-between this madness, I “adopted” a family of raccoons who made the most adorable house in the hollowed-out tree in my parents’ backyard (look at how cute those babies are – caught the pic just as mama went out for her evening hunt), and did some major landscaping at the Ithaca pad…


And that brings us to the festival hopping portion of the year…from Toronto to Tuscany, it was quite the whirlwind. Thankfully there was still time to greet friends, take in a most gorgeous wedding of friends Maya and Will, and a bluegrass show with my “band” at Triphammer Arts on a most exquisite evening – a golden sunset overlooking Cayuga Lake.

Toronto Summer Music was a splendid week of concerts and coachings, working with a group of young rising stars in the field and playing concerts with friends and colleagues (papa and I made a pitstop at Niagara on my drive up to Canada!). Berkeley and Santa Cruz were a return to my two can’t-live-without chamber music workshops: the former in sun-kissed Berkeley with the best dimsum that side of the Bay at Crowden, and the latter, where we live and play quartets under the Redwoods for 10 straight days at PACO. The Boundary Waters where the loon calls are frequent and the canoeing sublime for NLCMI, SkanFest where the audiences are so attentive one can hear a pin drop, and lastly Tuscany for PMT – all bring us full circle.

It’s hard to believe that fall is upon us already; September’s choosuk moon signaled the biggest and most important, splendid holiday in Korea, for which I came home and cooked for a small army; when I got back to Ithaca, I was tickled pink to take an old friend Guillaume Pirard, now brilliantly overseeing the Cornell Symphony, to hike my most favorite gorge trail – Treman Park. October came in like a beautiful freight train with a double-header world premiere of Laura Schwendinger‘s new double violin concerto Nightingales with the Dubuque Symphony and University of Wisconsin-Madison Symphony, respectively, with childhood friend and colleague Eleanor Bartsch. We paired the Schwendinger with the Bach Double (as one does), and El and I were beside ourselves to find out that our moms – 30 years ago – played that very piece, playing the same parts as we did, side-by-side, with El and I as little ones in the audience. In this case, it was very, “violin, meet violin.”

Up next is Black Angels, George Crumb’s iconic and genre-bending string quartet for amplified instruments and nearly as much gear as a percussion ensemble (is that happening tomorrow, already!?), followed by my maiden voyage as the host of This Is Minnesota Orchestra – their bi-annual live PBS broadcast. If anyone has read this far and is up for a ticket or a tune-in, here you have it:

Chamber Music Society of Minnesota
Season Opener – October 16, 2022 @ 4pm
Sundin Hall @ Hamline University
1531 Hewitt Avenue, St. Paul

This Is Minnesota Orchestra
Thomas Søndergård conducts Rite of Spring
Live Concert & Broadcast – October 21, 2022 @ 8pm CT
Minnesota Orchestra Hall
1111 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis
Broadcast Livestream
PBS MN Channel 2
Classical MPR 99.5 FM


And lastly, with the heaviest of hearts, the world bid farewell – far too early – to a brilliant young man, our cousin Evan Chyun. He lived a life worth living, filled with an inquisitive mind, a love of adventure, caring for the planet, wonderful friends, a burgeoning career as a public defense attorney in Alaska, and left behind far too many who loved and admired him. I’ll see you on my next mountaintop climb, Evan. Rest In Peace.

When 7 months feels like 7 weeks…

Surrounded once more by boxes and suitcases in glorified dorm room, I’m saying goodbye to my last few days here in Korea. Though I’ve felt a sense of time flying before, this experience came and left at warp speed for me. It’s been a total of seven months – four last semester, three this semester – that I spent here, and it truly feels like seven weeks. As I reflect, take in all that I had the privilege of doing while I was here, I leave saying “see you soon,” to this complicated and beautiful country.

It’s very bittersweet – though I miss my friends and family back home, I don’t quite feel ready to leave. Just as I’m starting to feel comfy and have a special community here, it’s time to head back. Alas, it’s good to finish a chapter wanting more, I suppose!? A sadness I have is that my family and friends back home weren’t able to come visit during this stretch. The pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our daily lives, and I promise, as baby Nathan in our old home videos says “to take you next time!”

There are so many things to share, and I know everyone’s time is so precious (particularly during the holidays!) so here are the semester’s highlights and then my “wish & miss” list…things that I’m wishing for back home, and things that I’ll miss from here…

From more incredible rock climbing on Korea’s world-class granite to performing concerts with wonderful colleagues and working with new students, to the continuation of my gayageum studies (and having my own instrument built to bring back home!) it’s been a whirlwind semester. Certain things continue to kick my rear (giving public master classes 100% in Korean is definitely humbling) and there are certain cultural differences that I’m still not used to (authoritative energy and the “never-be-different” vibe is strong here), but what a journey it’s been. Perhaps a most special moment was greeting my hiking partner, who is blind, after my last concert here last week. She and the whole volunteer crew attended, and I nearly cried when I saw them out in the audience. And since then it’s been a string of goodbyes to old and new friends, students, colleagues, and family…


• On Korea’s birthday I took a last-minute trip down to Busan to visit the extraordinary Haedong Temple and catch the last “warm” weekend at the stunning Haeundae Beach (granted I was the only weirdo actually swimming…) and some delicious mul milmyun definitely didn’t hurt.

• And then climbed Gwanaksan and Samsungsan with my climbing club (where we came across a crazy adorable wild puppy who we tried desperately to bring home with us…


• Performing at the Gyeonggi-do Akgi Bagmulguan with pianist Hyojung Huh and hanging out with her adorable kiddos afterward…

• Giving master classes and performing at the Changwon International Music Festival and hanging out with family afterward…

• A quick holiday with cousins to explore Jindo Island where we did an incredible sunset/sunrise hike and visited some puppies – who carry the island title in their name – during which I almost died of cuteness. Brace yourself.

• Meeting with my hanbok designer Suhmi Jang and taking in her genius, lunches with my auntie, our volunteer hiking group (brought my fiddle one day for a little impromptu trail concert ^^)…

• Visiting the gayageum factory where I met regional treasure Joonsuk Jo and chose my very own instrument; to see how everything is made was a life experience for sure.

• THANKSGIVING! (It’s not a thing here, but my savvy cousins found a turkey and we made all the sides we could with what we could find at our markets here!)…


• My final concert in Korea with SNU colleagues – Shostakovich, Beethoven, and Brahms with a wonderfully cheesy Christmas carol medley encore for which we dawned Santa hats and Rudolph antlers ^^ ~ photos with friends and fam post-show…

• Visiting the Amore Pacific Museum where a sublime Mary Corse (California-based refractive light artist) exhibition took my breath away…if you have a chance to check her out in any capacity live, I highly recommend it.

• And too many goodbyes to count…saying goodbye to my teachers, students, colleagues, family, and new friends.

And just for fun, as I ruminate on the things I can’t wait for back home and the things I’ll miss dearly (in no particular order)…

THE MISS LIST (why Korea is awesome)

• DAISO (we gotta get on this)
• impeccably clean subways and buses
• utterly reasonable cost of taxis, public transit, and dining out
• world-class street food
• the speed with which anything one orders arrives
• every whole-in-the-wall kimbab and soondooboo house
• access to gugak at nearly any time
• well-kept public restrooms everywhere
• the general respect and regard for public space (America, we can do better)
• the general respect and regard for education (America, ditto.)
• the Gangwondo mountains
• a general sense that civilians with guns is an insane idea
• a nationally supported healthcare system for all
• my friends and fam ^^

THE WISH LIST (why the States is awesome)

• CHEESE (Korea’s cheese game is far from on point…)
• great tacos and great Indian food (they haven’t figured these out either)
• the celebration of individualism
• a visible LGBTQ community
• pedestrians having the right of way in crosswalks (I get nearly mowed down daily)
• people holding the door as they walk through an entrance
• a general feeling of relax
• Christmas! (Christmas is their Valentine’s Day)
• Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Weggies
• the Adirondacks
• cars that are any color besides white or black (it’s a thing, I don’t get it!)
• fresh, creative, and critical thought
• dryers and dishwashers (#bathtowelstakeforevertoairdry)
• my friends and fam ^^’

On a final note, a very happy warm welcome to the newest member of my extended family, baby Chloe Gaeun Colella arrived to parents Hae-An and Steve just two weeks ago…

And on a somber note, as we greet the beginning of life, we also say a special farewell to a dear friend and neighbor, John Vandeweert. May you Rest In Peace, Mr. John.

John and his wife Hummy and son John Jr. chatting with my mom at one of my “drive-in concerts” last summer

우리 사랑하는 한국에 계신 선생님들, 동료들, 학생들, 친구들과 가족들에게 ~ 이 분들다 덕분에 저는 한국에 있는동안 희노애락 많이 있었습니다. 특히 김덕훈 큰아빠, 헌주 오빠와 전숭안이, 저는 잘 챙겨 주셔서 정말 고맙습니다. 그리울거예요 ㅠㅠ 코로나 끝난 다음에는 저는 한국에 곧 돌아오면 좋겠고 여러분 미국으로 꼭 오세요! ^^
크리스마스를 즐곱게 보내고 새해 복 많이 받으세요! ^^

That Feeling…

It can be nerve-racking, stepping back on stage in front of live audiences again after a hiatus that one hasn’t experienced since age 3. After nearly a year-and-a-half of making music in an online vacuum, it was beautiful, strange, and surreal to return to in-person performances. As many of us experienced, this summer was the first time we were back in concert halls, theaters, and festival spaces with live musicians and live audiences together again. I played my first in-person concert in 17 months at the Crowden Music Center‘s closing summer concert, and I thought to myself, ‘What if I’ve forgotten how to do this!?’…

Thanks to the wonderful spirit of the amazing students at Crowden and having my dear buddy and colleague Eugene at the helm, it was like riding a bike. And it had that feeling all over again – just like old times.

I left Korea for 2 months to come back “home” to the US and Italy for a wonderful whirlwind of festivals, concerts, and tours that made life feel almost normal. Two weeks in California – where I got to spend time at two of my favorite festivals in Berkeley (Crowden) and Santa Cruz (PACO) – were followed by two weeks in Italy, where our 2021 Paesaggi Musicali Toscani festival in Siena went off without a hitch (or at least no noticeable ones). Playing the Beethoven concerto with the brilliant musicians of Milano Classica under the Tuscan stars brought that feeling again – and perhaps life doesn’t get much better than that. Or the hand-rolled pasta, Brunello wine, truffled cheese, and fresh grilled garden vegetables that followed at our terrace restaurant…maybe it’s a tie.

Tuscany gave way to a week in Minnesota and Wisconsin where the CMSM presented two concerts at John Harbison‘s fabulous Token Creek Festival – another gorgeous experience to add to the list, with post-performance meals prepared by a dear friend of the family and wild cranes that made daily landings at dusk after each concert. A late-night arrival back in the Twin Cities turned into a short night before catching a flight back to New York where I spent a quick 36 hours up in Ithaca repacking my suitcase for the fall semester in Seoul, and visiting, whirlwind-style, several dear friends.

A joyful reunion with my car (whom I’ve lovingly named Spaceship) turned into a drive from hell as I made my way down to NYC at the peak of Hurricane Ida hitting Manhattan. I’ve never been so terrified before – not-so-small lakes on the interstate, abandoned vehicles, winds and lightning and rain that I was sure would carry me away with gushes of water coming over bridges that rivaled tidal waves – became an almost overnight stay in gridlock traffic trying to get onto a flooded out exit ramp on I-87, with nowhere to go in either direction. I’m almost positive my car saved my life that night (with no engine, an airtight battery, and AWD, it plowed through window-high waters, as my knuckles became whiter and whiter) and my heart broke to hear of those who lost their lives that night, many in that same situation. The insanity continued as I arrived home to find that a portion of the roof in our condo building had collapsed, turning our stairs and corridor into a river, water coming through the light fixtures in my ceiling and under the front door, then flooding our basement. Thankfully there aren’t residents in the basement and no one was injured – it will be a long road to repairs and insurance claims, but we are all grateful as it could have been much worse. This brought that feeling – but in a totally different way.

A weeklong mini-tour with The Knights rounded out the summer season with a concert and recording up at the glorious Clark Museum. We presented a program on their stunning grounds honoring the Norwegian painter Nikolai Astrup. Though I had never heard of Astrup before that moment, I was entirely taken by his work. We learned that he’s known for his portrayals of Norwegian landscapes and through it, his captivating use of light. I wish I had an entire day to roam the exhibit, but the moments I was able to spend inside the museum were exceptional. I felt drawn in, as if I were to be inside the painting itself, washed with light and as tiny as the speckled flowers on the ground. Between playing to such a warm and welcoming audience on those grand lawns to Colin‘s gorgeous Lark and the quite perfect Holberg Suite, it brought again, that feeling. We rounded out the project with a recording of Anna Clyne‘s Within Her Arms and with her voices washing over us, my carpool and I jumped into the Spaceship and set course for NYC once again, with of course a stop at Popeye’s on the way home. Cajun fries? Always.

I’ve just arrived back in the ROK hunkered down for quarantine #2 – this time definitely new and improved – at my new micro apartment on the SNU campus. It’s amazing what a difference deliverable groceries, takeout, a kitchen, a washing machine, a gayageum, and a balcony for fresh air can make when one is held captive for 14 straight days…and I’m proud to announce that I’ve wasted an impressive amount of time going down the rabbit hole of old SNL reruns from before I was born. Richard Pryor, Chevy Chase, and Steve Martin, circa 1980? Yes please.

So that feeling – whether it be adrenaline, hope, excitement, fear, disbelief, exhilaration, Cajun fries, or cabin fever – it reminds me how lucky we are to live in each moment, vividly.

Some end-of-summer reading that caught my eye for anyone interested:

The New Yorker “Have You Heard of Nikolai Astrup?”

And some feel-good end-of-summer listening (how did I not know about this!?)

Billy Preston Nothing from Nothing

And as always, a photo diary of my shenanigans…

After landing in Cali, I went straight to my old friend Ann and husband Adam’s place to meet their new sweet baby boy!

My amazing kiddos at Crowden in Berkeley!
That first concert in 17 months…Piazzolla’s Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas with Eugene Sor and the Crowden Band
And remember my beloved baby Joon puppy!? He moved to LA from Seoul to “get married,” and he and his owner drove 6 hours up the coast to surprise me at the concert!!
Got some brief but lovely family time in CA – my folks flew out and bro Nathan and new wife Natali came up from visiting her family for a little East Bay birthday party for the newlyweds =)
A pre-PACO Camp hike with my Cali “sister-aunties” Rebecca and Ji =)
Visiting an old friend Jen and her two little cuties, Olivia and Madeline…
And our beloved PACO Camp – coaching Beethoven quartets under the Redwoods…
Post-faculty concert with our fabulous Brahms quintet and the sweet/hilarious posters our kiddos made =)
A little outdoor hang time with the PACO faculty family (yes, the 1/3 sweatshirt craze is now a thing)…
ITALY! Playing the Beethoven Concerto for opening night in the town garden square…
A hilltop sunset concert with the fabulous Quartetto Indaco
Post-recital with Kristen Choi (amazing mezzo) and co-director Steve!
Is this real? I mean, come on.
Reuniting with old pal Nicole (and perhaps auditioning a Pellegrino ad?)
And the sublime cuisine…I have no words.
So thankful that I was able to catch the last few days of NLCMI 2021, my dad’s festival up in the Boundary Waters – post-concert at Camp Vermilion =)
On stage at Token Creek with the CMSM – Papa Kim, Jane Cords-O’Hara, Sally Chisholm, and bro Daniel
Post-show with the Harbison’s and their incredible staff
Those whirlwind visits with friends – seeing Mama Erica and meeting baby Max for the first time…
And the adorable Team Stanton-Wittich, newly 3-year-old Theo in tow!
Then that insane night, driving through the peak of Ida hitting NYC…
And the indoor “river” that was our apartment building’s corridor…
Playing the Clark! (Photos courtesy of Clark Art Institute)
Reuniting pre-concert with friend and composer Steve Dankner and his wife who live up in Williamstown, just minutes from the Clark =)
How beautiful are those grounds?
Post-concert reception and impromptu s’mores party…
A fabulous 24-hour goddaughter hang with young lady Alma and her beautiful mama Ieva (showing off our new matching Crocs as always, at the Crocs store in Midtown)
And a rock climbing date!
The eye from the sky…taking off for second semester out in the ROK!
And my makeshift 추석 차례 chuseok charaeh table celebrating the big fall harvest festival and honoring family members (and pups) that have passed on…definitely far from perfect, but one makes do with what one has ;). Thank you JESA!

“May I ask what you look like?”

It was such a simple question.  And it opened a whole world of thought and contemplation for me.  The woman that I take weekly hikes with is blind, and as we navigate the trails, we chat.  Last week, as we powered through the hot, sticky monsoon summer heat, she so sweetly asked me “죄송하지만, 아리아나가 어떻게 생겼어요?” – “May I ask what you look like?”  Of course – she’s never seen me.  I was embarrassed to realize, only then, how much I take being sighted for granted.  As I told her about my mixed race background, my chestnut hair and “round” eyes, I couldn’t help but think about how in many ways, the ability to see is a gift, yet might be at the core of racial discrimination.  If sight wasn’t a sense that most humans possessed, what would our impression of other cultures and races be?  Would we be more tolerant?  If we couldn’t see the shape of one’s eyes, the color of one’s skin, the texture of one’s hair, or the attire they dawn, how might we be?  Or can the same biases be learned through the other four senses?  As our world – and particularly the United States – continues to wake up to cultural injustice and bias, it begs the question of how much we decide with our eyes.

I’ve just hit the 4-month mark of being here in Seoul and in this overwhelmingly homogenous place, I look entirely non-Korean to most Koreans.  I suppose I have my mama’s blond hair and blue eyes to thank for my ambiguous appearance, but it’s not uncommon here for people to do a double-take when the see me, refer to me as “외국인” – “foreigner,” or ask right away where I come from.  I never take offense to it and happily engage in conversations about visiting Korea from the States, but it certainly makes me think about racial identity (for me particularly, feeling very white and very Asian at the same time) and how much hinges on what we see.  Though I’ve only had a glimpse into the world of people who are blind through this work over the last few months, I’ve been struck by how kind, appreciative, accepting, and powerful the community is.  I went down a mini rabbit hole on this idea and found this interesting interview/study on race and seeing from the Boston Globe – if nothing else, just good brain food for us to chew on…

The hiking crew, my partner “Double Sevens” second on the right.

On a perhaps-not-unrelated note, I’ve also been fascinated by modern Korean culture as of late, observing a superpower country that often has opposing forces at play.  It is a stunningly beautiful country with a complex and rich history.  From my perspective, I see a society that is at once very Western yet has immense pride for its cultural past.  It is a world where excellence, competition, and status are at the forefront of societal expectations, yet there is little room for innovative creativity and going off-trail.  There are holdovers from the deeply traditional Joseon dynasty alongside the pressures of a modern world, particularly with regard to gender roles and class.  I feel the importance of family and generational lineage, yet learned just the other day that the ROK has the lowest birthrate in the world.  It is a place where appearance and maintaining beauty is key, but diligence and productivity are taught as a non-negotiable.  There is great sentimentality for savoring the past, while “instant” culture with services like Coupang Rocket make Amazon Prime look like a snail.  Male K-Pop stars wear abundant makeup but the LGBTQ community here is nearly invisible.  As I jumped into a modern culture class at the start of this month, we started to explore some of these very topics; gyerogi abojee families, “manager mom” culture, world-famous plastic surgery centers, and the increase of millennial women in the workforce.  It’s been captivating to see the many sides of society, and to appreciate the yin and yang of what makes the world go ’round.  For those curious about some of the articles we’ve been looking at, feel free to click away:

On gyerogi abojee culture

On education


As I continue to try and soak up as much as I can while I’m here (where’s the “pause” button?), here’s a quick update on the last 6 weeks.  The end of the semester last month was followed by 2 weeks at “gayaguem camp” (think band camp but with ancient instruments!), a quick trip to Jejudo (Korea’s Hawaii) – where I had the chance to visit my auntie and summit Hallasan, a massive, inactive volcano – lots of studying (two short summer courses), and practicing around the clock to get ready for my upcoming concerts (why doesn’t my bow work today?).

In just a few days – with the unexpected restart of my summer festivals – I’ll be heading back overseas for a month and a half in the States and Italy.  Along with the stifling heat (heat indexes here hit 110 degrees often these days), humidity and monsoon rain, things here have also taken a turn for the worse with the pandemic.  The combination of the Delta variant and Korea being behind with vaccines have made the case load soar – and we’ve gone into a near-lockdown – apparently the strictest in all 19 months.  Schools have closed, no more than 2 people are allowed to gather anywhere after 6pm, and masks at all times.  Alas, it seems that my departure has come at a perfect time.  (Whole Foods cheese mongers, I’m on my way!)  Can we make some calls to see that things are back to normal when I get back in September?  헐.  Autumn in Korea is spectacular, so second semester will be something to look forward to =)

이경선 교수님, 김민지 교수님, 허효정 교수님께, 서울대 학기말 리사이틀들을 하느라고 수고 많이 하셨습니다 ~ 축하합니다!  덕훈 큰아빠께, 저한테 항상 친절하는 게 정말 고맙습니다.  영옥 고모, 우리 아름다운 서귀포 해수욕장에 갔던 날이 대단했습니다 ~ 요즘에도 계속 많이 드세요!  우리 서울 “교수 팀,” 지난 주에 두번째 티타임 파티가 진짜 재미있고 저는 박교수님과 조교수님의 판소리 “공연”을 절대 잊지 않을 것입니다 ^^ 승안이, 지은이에게, 내 남길 가방들이 보관해 주셔서 미리 고맙습니다 ~ 계산서를 기다릴거야 ^^ 여러분, 구월에 또 만날거예요!

And, as always, a photo diary…

Post-recital with SNU colleagues and students at the Performing Arts Center

My “gayageum camp” hosts – too adorable.

More cooking class time!

Taking a nighttime stroll along the beautiful ‘cheongyicheon’ water walkway =)

Getting some on-trail therapy for some neck pain (my hiking partner is a retired acupuncturist and she worked wonders!)…

…and my last hiking day with my beloved Joon puppy…he had to leave last week to go meet his “wife” in LA =)


Went to hang out with some beautiful flowers, bears, and other creatures at Seoul Grand Park & Arboretum…


Attending a ‘pansori’ opera and post-concert dinner with renowned gayageumist Jocelyn Clark!

Hello Jejudo!

Beach day…complete with an auntie-made picnic =)

Hiking Hallasan, its ancient lava rock paths, and the view from the top…

My Jejudo auntie, one of the most pure-hearted and special people on the planet.

Online family and friends time…my annual Crocs shopping date with Alma and a Father’s Day “party”…

Study time…I hope I don’t forget all the new Korean I learned while I’m away =/

My amazing teacher showing me the ropes…literally.

Newly re-soled climbing shoes (with the wicked heat, climbing was all indoors this month!)


Gatherings with friends and fam – this last pic is my dad’s two best friends from middle school!

Jangma! Monsoon season is real…

…and the beauty after the storms…

Giving a couple of house concerts…

…and summer market life.

Until next time…

Hello, Gayageum

2.5 months in the ROK has flown by.  I wish there was a way to pause time.  I met the gayageum last month and I’m entirely smitten.  Though the original centerpiece of my coming here for sabbatical was a fellowship to study ancient traditional and folk music, it was canceled due to, well, you know.  So, through the generosity of friends at the National Gugak Center I’ve since been able to craft my own course, diving deep into the world of sanjo study and performance practice.  It’s a fascinating instrument with a long history that exists both in the world of court music and folk music, played by plucking with the right hand, sighing, crying, and vibrating with the left.  My studies are now focused on the 12-string sanjo gayageum (one string for each month of the year) with moveable bridges meant to mimic the foot of a wild goose, girogyi.  Though my relationship with this new creature is young (with fresh blisters from the hours per day practice to boot!) I see a long-term relationship in the making…

The spring semester here is nearly complete, and my students at SNU are prepping for their last performance exams and recitals this coming week.  I’m blown away every week by the level of playing here, the intense dedication to hard work, and the humility of each and every one of the students.  I took my own final exams last week, and I have to admit there was something oddly comforting about it.  I’ve been diving into traditional cooking classes each weekend (making tofu from scratch is mega cool) and trying to write from scratch or translate a new poem per day.  Isn’t it ironic that the older we get the more we want to learn, yet the harder it is to do?

Doing my best to soak up as much as I can while I’m here, I’ve loved playing tourist, visiting Namsan Tower, the National Museum, (a perfect pair to my history course) and the super famous Noryangjin Fish Market.  It doesn’t get much fresher than selecting your live fish at the market and then having it cleaned and sent directly upstairs to the restaurants for instant preparation.  A trip to Surisan with my climbing club for some fabulous outdoor crag climbing was how we celebrated Buddha’s birthday.

Perhaps the highlight of the last month was a trip to my favorite place on earth, a little country house set amidst our family’s ginkgo tree farm in Gangwon province.  The soft mountains set against the crystal clear brook that runs behind the hand-crafted cottage bring tears to my eyes just thinking about it.  Time away from the city, far from the air pollution, with family and friends, complete with a picnic to feed royalty and an outdoor recital of Bach and bluegrass ~ another reason to pause time.

Two beautifully unexpected surprises came my way as well since I last wrote: befriending a lovely elderly neighbor in my building who happens to be the owner of a crazy adorable 5-month-old jindo puppy – who looks almost identical to my childhood pup, Sandy – has led to almost daily walks and training exercises together.  And, through this friendship, I was introduced to an incredible volunteering group that helps lead hikes for people who are blind, through the Namsan dullegil each week.  Each volunteer attaches a short rope to their backpack, and we slowly lead our partners through the hike, verbalizing upcoming territory as they follow.  My partner is a tiny, power-packed force of goodness, and at 77, hikes those paths with fervor that would put most young adults to shame.

And lastly, I’ve just learned that, thanks to the swift vaccine rollout in the States and the opening of EU borders, my summer festival season is ON!  So, though it’ll be hard to leave, I’ll be heading back to the States (CA, MN) and to Italy (my festival in Tuscany) for the month of August to play my first live concerts to in-person audiences in more than a year!

Some musings:

Perhaps it’s typical when living abroad, or just a sign that I’m getting older, I find myself often pondering life’s biggest, unanswerable questions.  I came across this cool article on the art of decision-making – it’s worth the read, if you’ve got the time:

조유회 선생님께 영감을 주는 가야금 수업을 정말 고맙습니다 ~ 매일 마다 열심히 연습 하려고 노력하는 중이에요.  덕훈 큰아버지께 저한테 남산 타워와 국립박물관을 보여 주셔서 대단히 고맙습니다 ~ 큰아빠가 화요일에 백신을 맞는게 저는 너무 행복합니다!  영옥 고모와 고모부, 승안이와 지은이, 아름다운 강원도 여행을 고맙습니다 ~ 그 날 대한 자주 생각합니다.  성봉 아저씨, 생선회랑 게 점심 요리 해 주셔서 감사합니다 ~ 전 가치가 없습니다 ^^  경옥 선생님께 다음 주에 남산 둘레길에서 또 만날거예요 ^^

And as always, some pics from this wild ride…

Let bootcamp begin!  Man, I should have started this when I was a kid…

Let’s get cookin’…

SNU end-of-semester rehearsals and concerts…

Tourist days with my great uncle – National Museum, Namsan Tower, palace tours, and FISHIES!


A side-by-side of Joon (the new pup) and Sandy (my childhood dog) – what!?

Meeting the founder of 에스 카사 (a little article was written about me…ㅎ)


Family time in Gangwon-do…(my uncle built that incredible treehouse!)

And all 3 girls found 4-leaf clovers!  That has to be good luck, right!?

Life doesn’t get much better than this.

Happy Birthday, Buddha!

Weekend lunch party with the fam…

The volunteers + partners hiking crew!

And my fabulous partner – she calls herself “Double Sevens” – a phrase that she learned to describe her age in her English class. Love.

And a little outdoor recital…

Until next time…

Korean Quarantine Chronicles + Seoul Life

Well, to put it bluntly, it was rough.  Apparently I am not built for 14 straight days in a 15×15 room with awful food and zero access to the outdoors.  From the cheez-whiz sandwiches to the yelling (lots of yelling) to the cockroaches I found in my room, it was solid material for some Kafka-esque nightmares and a private meltdown or two.  Though I knew it was a possibility that I’d be hauled off to a government facility, my hopes went sky-high when the first four of five checkpoint stations at ICN Customs went well – I was ready to go to my apartment for the mandatory quarantine – but the man at the fifth and final stop reversed their decisions and I was tagged and put on an unmarked bus to an unknown destination more than 2 hours away.

I tried my best to stay sane with my study books, a giant New Yorker puzzle, blanket knitting, mask sewing, practicing (during the few hours that “noise” was permitted) and a workout routine in the tiny yoga-mat-shaped space at the foot of my bed would allow, but I’m not sure I succeeded.  Doing my taxes seemed like additional cruel and unusual punishment; the lack of creative and inspiring space (aka fresh oxygen) made the idea of embarking on editing my new album a dangerous endeavor.  So, I did the best I could, amidst a case of full-body stress hives, counting down every hour until freedom came ringing.  At the price of $2K one would think perhaps a walk each day – even if masked and distanced – and good food might be in order as no takeout is permitted, but no.  Sadly, though Korea is a leader in virus mitigation, contact tracing, and compliance, they’re way behind with vaccine rollout, which makes it tricky for those who are fully vaccinated being looked at with amended restrictions.

But, I suppose the silver lining is that it made my first walk outdoors and my first real meal even more divine.  I had to remind myself that this was part of the privilege of being able to live abroad during this time, and that there are many people on this planet without food or shelter.  And, I had a few “angels” who managed to sneak some special life-saving snacks into the facility for me ~ something I’ll be forever grateful.

And then came freedom.  My dear cousin made the trek down from the city to rescue me and we spent my first glorious day together eating heavenly, home-cooked food, and taking long walks outside.  It was like being reborn.

I’ve just hit the one-month mark of Seoul life, and it is grand.  A bustling city that is all at once deeply Korean and remarkably Western amazes me by its sparkling subway stations, fiercely abiding citizenry, and an abundance of delectable cuisine.  Everyone waits patiently in single-file lines to board the trains, and escalators – no matter how narrow – always leave room for one clearly standing line on the right, and one passing lane on the left.  It’s wonderfully adventurous to be living in an environment that feels so foreign yet so at-home.  Life is nearly normal here, with businesses open and live concerts (remember those?) nightly.  Except for one thing – 100% compliance: I have, to this day, never seen a single person out in public – no matter if outdoors or in (unless eating) – without a mask.  Funny how things can be so different when an entire population believes in science.

My master class series as a visiting teaching artist at Seoul National University began just 48 hours after my release from quarantine and has been a dream ever since.  The students are kind, engaged, and world-class musicians.  The facilities are fabulous, and set at the foothills of Gwanaksan mountain, the campus is rather breathtaking.  I’m also on the study train myself to learn more about the history and culture of my ancestors (on the docket this week is gender standards from the Joseon Dynasty to present) and to kick my language skills into high gear (perhaps my 2nd-grade Korean will ascend to 3rd grade soon!) – how cool and bizarre it is to be taking notes and writing essays again, just like old times.  The forever-nerd in me is loving living in the joy of fresh notebooks, new pens, and study guides.  Next month I begin my study of traditional music, art, and dance at the National Gugak Center – the centerpiece of my choosing Seoul as my sabbatical home base.  The Center is celebrating their 70th anniversary this year, and I was able to catch their opening festival performance – it was mesmerizing.

It’s a beautiful time right now as the cherry blossoms are in full bloom and the temperature is warm during the day and cool in the evenings.  The pollution can be a bit rough, but thanks to a few amazing phone apps, one can track the air quality so quickly and easily before heading outdoors.  Street markets are full with fresh fruit and vegetables and Coupang (Korea’s Amazon) makes nearly instant delivery a total luxury.

Job one after moving into my apartment was to find a place to climb.  After scouting out a bouldering gym in my very neighborhood and a fabulous big-wall gym out in the suburbs, I managed to get adopted by a wonderful and international climbing community – with whom I went last week to climb one of the most glorious peaks in Korea: a 2,700-foot, 8-pitch trad route to the summit of Insubong in Bukhansan National Park.  It was epic.

I’ll leave you here with a couple of fascinating articles I’ve come across in my studies and, as always, a photo diary.

제 정부 자가격리 천사들에게 ~
박선주 교수님, 조희금 교수님, 신선한 과일과 야체와 맛이있는빵을 보내주셔서 종말 감사드립니다.  유영미 교수님, 재미있는 한국어 연습 미팅을 고맙습니다.  김권식 대표님, 이상원 감독님이 소개를 하셔서 감사드립니다 ~ 저희 카톡 방이 아주 재미있습니다.  승안이와 지은이, 쿠팡 간식 택배 없이는 살 수 없었어요.  우리 부모님도 매일 통화들 미소짓게 했습니다…화이팅!

Hugs from Hongdae,

from The New Yorker: About Face
from The University of California Press: Women in Choseon Korea

The morning of…10 months of life in 4 bags + a violin ^^

Basil (and me) getting spoiled cashing in on a global upgrade ^^

Hello ROK!

My very sad quarantine meals (this was daily lunch)…

And my even sadder view…(at least there was a window!)

And…my new…friends?

Trying to keep busy…

Special snacks snuck in by behind-the-scenes angels kept me alive…and FaceTime with Alma too ^^

…and then…FREEDOM! My amazing cousins Seung-An and Ji-Eun who rescued me and made me the most incredible celebration meal of all time.

My amazing uncle who helped me learn the ropes of the city, complete with killer lunch meals…

Starting work at SNU, some of the wonderful students I’m coaching here ^^

The most organized subway waiting platform I’ve ever seen…(NYC, let’s take some lessons)

My professor angel crew, sharing tea and desserts at Prof. Cho’s apartment =)

Figuring out how to cook at home on my teeny tiny stove…

Eating my way through the best restaurants in town…

And even found a way to stash some Minnesota wild rice in my suitcases for a little hometown comfort food =)

The super cool big-wall climbing gym outside the city…

Sunset on the Han River

Cherry blossom time!

My first live, indoor concert in 15 months – totally riveting.

A most incredible performance of traditional Korean music and dance – an after-show pic with the Director Lee’s family ^^

And these are the alerts we get on our phones when the air pollution is bad: red is bad, black is the worst…yowza!

And some more Minnesota love, hanging with Erin Keefe at a concert of the Seoul Philharmonic where hubby Osmo Vänska is now music director!

And the epic climb…2,700 feet of glorious granite.

And the view from the top!

Album #2, Glaude’s “Begin Again” & Moving to the Motherland

Album #2 is in the can: an exploration into the world of improvisation through two different lenses – Mozart and Beethoven sonatas (tuned down to 435 on gut strings with fortepiano) on the one hand, and world folk music for violin and percussion on the other.  Through masks and more distance than most musicians really care for, we made it to the last take of the record with Leszek Wojcik in the engineering booth.  Roger Moseley, a brilliant musicologist and inventive fortepianist joined me as my partner in crime for the first half of the album, while Shane Shanahan, celebrated percussionist and composer, joined for the second.  Traversing through two masterpieces of the classical era alongside 13-beat Bulgarian folk tunes and jog-inspired compositions by Shane himself brought about an incredibly vivid symbiosis: improvising in the slow movement of a Mozart sonata somehow inspires how I might unfold an improvised Alap and vice versa.  I couldn’t help but think about how such an observation can be useful in navigating life these days…

It is with gratitude to my friend Bill Manning for introducing me to this deeply provocative and important book that I share with you Eddie S. Glaude Jr.’s Begin Again.  I imagine many are already familiar with this work, but for those for whom it’s new, it’s a journey through James Baldwin‘s America and how that journey parallels – in many cases far too closely – our America of today.  It begs that we take a look at the temperature and attitudes of the 1960s and recognize how little true progress we’ve made as a nation with regard to civil and human rights.  It asks the reader – no matter how uncomfortable and sticky it feels – to evaluate their role in our current world, checking privilege, “done good-ism,” and innocence at the door.  Glaude even asks us to evaluate our own reflections in the mirror of othering and hate that, until last month, were at the core of our leadership in Washington.  This passage, as Glaude paraphrases Baldwin’s approach to his activism and writing, stood out to me above all others:

“…the unexamined life was not worth living.  To live and move about the world without questioning how the world has shaped and is shaping you is, in a way, to betray the gift of life itself.”

If I may be so bold, I highly recommend the read, and it’s good to sit in that sticky space while you’re in the thick of it.

And on a mildly related topic, in just a few short days, I’ll be moving to Korea for the rest of the year!  After what seems like countless emails and visits to the Consulate, an FBI check (phew), the collecting of precious American goodies (Deep River chips are top on the list), packing and re-packing my three overly heavy suitcases, it’s nearly time for me to jump into this new adventure.  On sabbatical from Cornell, I’ll be living and working in Seoul, studying ancient Korean traditional music, serving as a guest teaching artist at Seoul National University, spending time with family, and leaning into the culture, language, and daily life on the ROK.  Growing up a mixed-race kid in St. Paul, I always felt and identified as Korean, but never had the opportunity to lean deeply into my heritage; it is with great excitement, a bit of anxiety, and humility that I start this new chapter.  And, with NY State educators being included in Phase 1B, I’m fully vaccinated from COVID-19 – boy, does it make that 15-hour flight feel so much better.

The question at hand now is what my mandatory 14-day quarantine will look like.  All inbound travelers in to South Korea are required a 2-week lockdown upon arrival and though I’m vaccinated and have my own (furnished) apartment, it’s not clear whether or not the folks at ICN Customs will allow me to isolate at home or if I’ll be swept away to a government facility.  If it ends up being the latter, just in case I’ve got a bag packed with Trader Joe’s snacks, a 1000-piece puzzle, several books, a yoga mat, and my album edits to keep me from going too stir-crazy.  Fingers crossed I’ll be able to go to my apartment, but I’m prepared for plan b too.  If 2020 taught us anything, it’s how to embrace uncertainty and be ready for plans a-z.  Perhaps the Korean Quarantine Chronicles will have to be the next post here…

Finally, as I find myself doing too often in these posts, we bid farewell to Ms. Priscilla “Percy” Browning, who was a beautiful force of nature, a fixture in the Ithaca arts world, and a dear friend.  Percy was known for her love of music and theater, and her philanthropic legacy will live far beyond her years here on Earth.  We are so grateful for everything you have left us with, and may you Rest In Peace, Miss Percy!

Percy, with her beloved pup Alice at my home back in 2018 =)

And as always, photographic evidence of the latest shenanigans I’ve gotten myself into:

A pre-recording impromptu master class with Malcolm Bilson – thank you for the rehearsal space and your infinite wisdom!

Part I with Roger…

And Part II – Shane and Leszek talking mic placement (and politics, of course)…

New Year’s with the fam…

…and the deliciousness that comes with that…

Prince Daniel’s birthday – Alaskan king crab party!


Then we got some blizzards…and this is how I dealt with it =)

Giant. Snow. Cave.

Putting a little bluegrass in the can as well with colleagues Tim and Rick up in Ithaca…

Packing chaos in my tiny NYC apartment bedroom…

A little backcountry winter dinner moment with the great Matt Vosler tending to the Christmas tree bonfire…

And saying goodbye to so many beloved friends…

And with Suzy and I both fully vaxed, our very first snuggle hug in nearly a year <3

Stay safe, happy, and healthy – more to come from the other side of the globe.

A Virtual Premiere, My Fave Kimchee Recipe, & Happy 2021

It’s been a minute.  I can hardly believe a whole semester has passed since I last posted here – time seems to stand still yet fly by all at once these days.  Now 10 months into the pandemic and nearly two million lives lost worldwide, we are all faced with myriad challenges, and try to find peace and solace where we can.  As I look back on 2020 and wish it a hasty goodbye, I feel such a mix of things – gratitude for what my privilege has allowed during this time, sorrow for the suffering and loss we have all experienced and witnessed, and hope that tomorrow will bring us something better.  Happy New Year, Welcome 2021!

Though life has looked far from normal from all of us and my daily existential crisis of being a performing artist at a time when the world is standing still is very real, we all have soldiered on as best we can.  Rather than attempting to wax poetic into the already inundated world of internet reflections, I will leave you here with some highlights and the only thing that seems fitting right now: kimchee.  This is a “recipe” that I’ve played with and tweaked over the last couple of years, and have fallen in love with – it’s a combo pack of some old Kim family secrets, a couple of tricks I found online, and some good ole AK improvisation.

I’ve become obsessed with using red nappa instead of the usual – it was a gamble that I took when I found this beautiful head at the Ithaca Farmers Market earlier this fall, but turned out to be a more complex, slightly sweet, wonderfully refreshing cousin to its green relative.  Here’s the not-so-complicated gig, if you’re interested in trying it out:

Step 1 – slice one medium-large nappa head into bite-size pieces and soak in salted cold water, giving it a toss every 30-40 minutes for about 2 hours

Step 2 – in a saucepan, whisk 1 cup of water with 1/8 cup of sweet rice flour (chapsaal garu) and bring to gentle boil until viscous, about 6-7 minutes on low; sprinkle in about 2 tablespoons of sugar – let that hang out and cool

Step 3 – in a food processor, throw in all the good stuff: 1/2 to 2/3 cup (depending on how spicy you like it) of Korean hot pepper flake (gochu garu), 4-5 cloves of garlic, 1/2 an onion, 1/3 cup of fish sauce, and a tsp of fresh ginger

Step 4 – buzz that all up into a fine puree adding a little water if needed to loosen it up, then transfer to a large bowl to combine it with the cooled sweet rice mixture – fold together until totally smooth

Step 5 – drain and rinse the cabbage several times under cold running water and shake it dry, then dump it into the big bowl of goodness, coating every piece generously by hand

Step 6 – put it all in jars/containers with tight-fitting lids, place a stone or plate over it to help everything stay submerged…let it hang out on the counter for 1-2 days, then pop it in the fridge to be ready anytime =)

Fall Highlights

September brought about a very special world premiere of a multimedia piece for solo violin + spoken word in honor of George Floyd that I put together with beloved Minnesota artists Lou Bellamy, Sarah Bellamy, and Steve Heitzeg.  We were able to present it virtually, followed by a round-table discussion with the artists and our audience members.  If you weren’t able to catch it and would like to have a watch/listen, please visit the links below:

“How Many Breaths?  In Memory of George Floyd and Countless Others”

The piece itself (no password necessary):

The full event, with panel discussion (password: justiceforgeorge):

My folks came out to quarantine with me in New York for nearly 2 months, which was stellar.  I built a plexiglass barrier for my office (yes, believe it or not, Cornell wouldn’t provide one), played a drive-in bluegrass show, gave some more curbside concerts, and saw my students through their first pandemic-live recital.  I leaned into some backcountry living and my love for rock climbing grew into a mild obsession (did my first trad lead at Thanksgiving!).  Countless Zoom meetings, backyard hangs (even a surprise birthday party for Papa Kim), long walks, and improvising with my new looper pedal kept the docket healthfully engaged.  I’m now prepping for the recording of my second album, and getting ready to move to Korea for the year (!) shortly.

And, here’s a photo diary, if you’d care to have a gander…

Exploring Lake Placid, Chapel Pond, and Whiteface Mountain up in the Daks with mom and dad…

The darn cutest stone-carved bears (COVID-ready, of course) in Saranac, with a Basil photo-bomb

Governor’s Island with the folks and Keisuke!

The view from stage – playing a socially-distanced drive-in bluegrass show with my “band” at Triphammer Arts =)

Building a plexiglass barrier for my office for in-person teaching – at least I have a fall-back career now…

Outdoor hang time with friends and family – with Patty at Green Lakes Park, Erica & Ira at Montgomery Park, Nell in my backyard, and a surprise party for Papa’s birthday at chez Kim!

At the finish line – bro Daniel crafted and completed his own half marathon in honor of his late friend Devin’s scholarship foundation, DSSF!

Taking “How Many Breaths” to the streets – performing pop-up concerts in front of the Minneapolis murals following the virtual premiere…

Braved the 4-hour lines on the first day of early voting in NYC – Harlem was representing! We were even visited by Melba herself, doling out snacks and water =)

Living the backcountry life…cooking, camping, and climbing in the Daks =)


Climbing in the Gunks with dearest buddies Rion and Matt (thanks for catching my first trad lead, Vos!)

This is what live concerts look like pandemic-style…our studio recital and post-concert group photo. Thanks to the amazing Steve Gosling for joining us on piano!

Christmastime! My first full-size tree in my own house =)

After a negative covid test + 26-hour direct drive home, I made it home to be with my fam for the holidays…morning yoga sculpt classes with Sonja, challah French toast, and a Korean feast for Christmas Day =)

And finally, a somber farewell to a dear friend – Leslie Volker, who departed this world too suddenly.  You left House of Note in beautiful hands, and behind a legacy of spirituality, kindness, and laughter.  You will be so very missed.

With friends at my dad’s retirement party last November – Rest In Peace, lovely Leslie!

Remembering Giants


Last Sunday the world bid farewell to a musical giant – one who transformed what was possible on the piano and created a legacy as an artist, teacher, and mentor that will live on long after his years here on Earth.  Leon Fleisher was a force larger than life, most often quietly so, who commanded the stage for more than seven decades.  Through a battle with focal dystonia that left his right hand out of commission for much of his career, he returned to the stage with both hands in his mid-70s – something I was honored to witness.  I had the chance to work with him on many occasions, both in the coaching studio and on stage; from remembering his enveloping musical soul when performing Brahms together to finding myself in tears listening to him play Schubert’s late B-flat sonata during his final recital at Ravinia some years ago, I try to carry his wisdom with me always.  I quote him to my students often: when asked about his stunning command of musical timing, he said “the key is, to play at the last possible moment, without being late.”  One need not say much more.  Rest well, High Priest.

Backstage after performing the Brahms quintet with Fleisher in 2016 – his wonderful wife Katherine to his right and CMSM artists Sally Chisholm, Young-Nam Kim, Mina Smith


July 19th was his 100th birthday.  On New Year’s Day two years ago, we said goodbye to another musical giant, Robert Mann – his 97 years bore witness to a musical career that is nearly unparalleled.  From his earliest days as a rough-and-tumble Oregon boy assigning friends to be in his first string quartet outfitted with tree branches attached to a single violin string each, to serving in the army during World War II and reading quintets with Einstein, his life was fiercely rich.  Interwoven with his venerated 51 years with the Juilliard String Quartet – creating the gold standard for Beethoven and Bartok quartets and championing new music – was his dedication to the teaching of violin and chamber music.  I was lucky enough to observe the former and take part in the latter.  Lessons often included stories about how he hears the crashing waves on the coast of the Pacific Northwest when he thinks about rhythm, or how hiking in Glacier National Park (which was one of the first dates he had with his beloved wife Lucy) can inspire one’s sense of artistic affect.  When he was out of town on studio class days, my classmates and I would set up our own sessions to perform our works-in-progress for each other, gatherings that we lovingly termed “geek class.”  My life as an artist-teacher is forever impacted by him.  I tap into his wisdom often when I’m with my own students now, and when I played my last live concert for the foreseeable future on March 8th, it was his Beethoven concerto cadenzas that I braved.  I have been diving into this dazzling collection of videos, recordings, and interviews that the Naumburg Foundation put together in honor of his 100th that his son Nicholas sent my way.  What a life worth living.  We miss you dearly, Mr. Mann.

At my Juilliard graduation, 2009

With Bobby and Lucy at their home in December 2017, just days before his passing


…a life cut far too short at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.  George Floyd was yes, a giant in physical stature, but his story has become a giant that has captured a city, a nation, and our globe.  I saw recently the new body cam footage from the moments leading up to his arrest: an unarmed black man pleading, respectfully, with police, not to kill him.  He was not violent nor posing a threat, yet a gun was drawn and pointed at Floyd’s head.  My heart breaks and my soul is crushed every time I see or read about a story like this – of which there are far too many to count –  and I always ask “but why?”  I watched as my hometown wept and burned, crying out for there to be, finally, meaningful action to address police violence and systemic racism that has defined our country, centuries deep.  I think often of my own experience with and role in racism, how my thoughts or actions have been skewed by my own ignorance or lack of understanding.  I have struggled with my voice here as a woman, the child of an immigrant, an artist, and an educator.  What can and what do I do through these lenses?  Demonstrate, donate, volunteer, yes.  Listen, read, discuss, yes.  Yell, cry, express, yes.  And create.  I am honored to be putting together a small multimedia piece for solo violin + spoken word in honor of George Floyd with three spellbinding Twin Cities artists: actors Lou Bellamy and Sarah Bellamy (of the newly renamed Penumbra Center for Racial Healing, formerly Penumbra Theatre) and renowned St. Paul composer Steve Heitzeg, who speaks social justice and activism through music.  Stay tuned for an online premiere coming soon.  Rest in Power, Sir George.

At the demonstrations and memorial site in Minneapolis

And for something entirely different and distractionary, here’s a little photo diary of what life in quarantine land has looked like for me over the last couple of months.  Hugs from NY.

This thing we’re calling a social life:

Hanging with my dear friend Suzy in Jackie Robinson Park, each to her own bench…

A parking lot (well, car wash bay) hang with the Family Temkin

Stopping on my cross-country road trip in Pittsburgh to see my bestie Marta

Celebrating the Goldberg’s 10th wedding anniversary

Waiting in line for the ever-so-pleasant COVID test

Zoom date Crocs shopping with my sweetie “goddaughter” Alma

And family life…I’ve been lucky enough to have been together with family for much of the lockdown =)

Daniel’s first arrival back in MN before he was freed from the mask and the basement

Visiting dear friends Nandi and Rafi’s Rocky Acres Farm – hi baby Mili!

Exploring the incredible Finger Lakes with bro Daniel and his girlfriend Nora =)

One of the greatest silver linings of the pandemic is having time to take in so much if this gorgeous green earth, both in MN and NY…


Jay Cook State Park, MN

(and blowing a tire on the drive up to Jay Cook…good thing I paid attention that day in driver’s ed!)

The breathtaking Robert Treman Park, Ithaca

And this has somehow become my work life…

Coaching master classes at PACO and Crowden in Cali from NYC, Zoom-style

Recording a beautiful film score by Judy Hyman with socially-distanced, masked colleagues at Pyramid Studios…

And giving curbside concerts with family and friends for our neighbors =)

My greatest claim to fame in quarantine land is my learning how to use a hammer drill and masonry bits to build a bouldering wall into the concrete block wall of my parents’ garage…the things we do once we’re bitten by the climbing bug…

Step one: power wash the garage…

Step two: get them holds and hardware in order

Step three: drill that grid…

Step four: start setting routes (and pretend to know what I’m doing)


Time to climb =)

I’ve discovered that my happy place these days is in the kitchen, apron on, cooking up a storm.  Here’s my “covid cookbook…”

Lobster tails in honor of Mama Kim’s birthday!

Seafood pastas have been a serious staple…

Veggie side dishes…pasta pie, roasted roots, and zucchini medallions

Mushroom and asparagus risotto and seared broccoli rabe…

Thanksgiving in May!

Chicken & eggplant parm with pesto fusilli

Korean bibimbop night!

My first attempt at Hawaiian poke bowls…

…and sweets! Baking muffins, chocolate cake, peanut butter cake (thanks, Molly!) from scratch and mango sticky rice (with fresh Florida mangoes FedExed overnight)…

And Papa Kim’s annual farming expedition…mulberry jam from the berries in our backyard =)

Korean BBQ night!

And cheddar, chive, and scallion egg scramble with Rocky Acre Farm eggs!

That’s all for now.  Now it’s off to wrap my brain around how to teach this semester…Cornell is reopening in just three short weeks and there’s a mountain of uncertainty to climb!  To all of you and your friends and family, stay safe and healthy.

Making Masks + Musical Hugs from MN

As this moment in time brings our country and our globe to its knees, all of us are adjusting to a new, hopefully temporary, normal.  For so many of us, life has gone from 1000mph to 0mph, nearly overnight.  With artists from coast-to-coast without work, small business owners facing bankruptcy, children without school meals, and those on the front lines enduring heartbreak and frustration, perhaps the only thing to do is lean into the goodness of silver linings and find small ways to help.

So, this is my new project: sewing CDC-approved masks for medical staff at local hospitals.  I’m an entirely novice seamstress (up until this point I hadn’t sewn more than a hem or button), but this opportunity has been my silver lining to learn a new skill that can be put to use for those in need.  If anyone reading this is interested in joining the “sewing army,” click here to get information on the pattern and delivery locations.

The mask-making begins…getting started…

…adding pieces of Dupont-96 HEPA filter to the inside of each mask – brings it close to the efficacy of an N-95…

…all packed up and ready for deliveries!

I’m lucky to be home, hunkering with my parents in a warm home with plenty of food and music to fill the air.  As mama and I become whizzes at giving lessons and studio classes on Zoom, papa and I work on building a garage bouldering wall (my other new obsession with rock climbing has created a crazy home project), and each morning is filled with lots of sewing, there is much gratitude to be felt.  Siestas have become a daily occurrence, happy hour seems to start a bit earlier each afternoon, and an appreciation for the little things has become large.

And, if anyone would like a break from the news stream and wants to escape into Ariana-land for a few moments, below is a musical hug – a little solo Bach as meditation (please excuse the lo-fi, iPhone mic situation – I’m a tech simpleton), and a photo diary of my last couple of months.  Last is a stunning poem by Pablo Neruda – here’s to better days ahead:

My first trip to Sydney for my dear childhood friend Alice’s wedding!

Omg – did I just MEET A KOALA!?  An incredible visit to an Australian wildlife conservation refuge…

Dinner parties with dear friends up in Ithaca, ah yes, the before-times…

A happy and unexpected hang with baby bro in NYC =)

Tweaking my kimchee recipe…

Cornell residency with Arun Ramamurthy, diving into the world of Carnatic music…

Playing Ljova’s “Out of Leftovers” concert series at Symphony Space Bar Thalia on 96th…

Performing Haydn’s “Seven Last Words” with CMSM artists and esteemed actor/narrator, Lou Bellamy.

Catching my dear friend Ian’s CD release show with his group, Sandbox Percussion =)

Attending Jordan Casteel’s talk and gallery opening with Miku (that’s him in the painting!) at the New Museum – completely inspiring.

Happy Baby Shower, Nandi! Can’t wait to meet Little Lady Aponte soon =)

Performing the Beethoven concerto with Kiki Kilburn and the fabulous students of the Cornell Chamber Orchestra – this was unknowingly my last concert, for the foreseeable future…

Post-concert walk on the Cornell Arts Quad with Papa Kim…

…and our last normal weekend…enjoying friends in San Diego =)

Four generations of Kims – great-great auntie and baby Hyunoo in LA =)

Basil, my model for the child-size mask, and me…definitely a missed career opportunity as a bandit model.

And here we are – bare shelves and social-distancing picnics in the car…(this one’s for you, Alma!)…

With love, a poem by Pablo Neruda:

Ode to Hope

Oceanic dawn
at the center
of my life,
waves like grapes,
the sky’s solitude,
you fill me
and flood
the complete sea,
the undiminished sky,
and space,
sea foam’s white
the orange earth,
the sun’s
fiery waist
in agony,
so many
gifts and talents,
birds soaring into their dreams,
and the sea, the sea,
chorus of rich, resonant salt,
and meanwhile,
we men,
touch the water,
and hoping,
we touch the sea,

And the waves tell the firm coast:
‘Everything will be fulfilled.’

A Brahms Cycle, Ne(x)tworks Reunion, Canadian Knights, & Bangkok Residency

2020’s arrival has come and gone, and it feels like the last couple of months have flown by with such speed that they melted together in some sort of Dali-esque landscape.  Speaking of melting, it’s 96 degrees here in Bangkok.  I’m finishing up a beautiful residency of master classes and recital featuring the world premiere of a new multimedia piece by Cornell DMA composer Piyawat Louilarpprassert at the P. Galyani Vadhana Institute of Music.  I’m dipping my toe (probably just one of them for now) into the world of my new looper pedal and will do a little premiere of that dippage tonight as well…and it’s with this at hand that I took a moment to reflect on life since I last posted here.

I can’t resist starting this entry with these two pics – I arrived two days early in Bangkok in order to take a trip to an elephant sanctuary in Western Thailand where people help care for elephants rescued from logging and circus training abuse…elephants have long been my spirit animal, but getting to be with them in this way was entirely life-changing.

Late October was a Ne(x)tworks farewell inside a Knights sandwich.  My beloved new music ensemble, Ne(x)tworks (of which I was a member for 10 years, from 2005-2015) hung up its hat for good and bid farewell with a reunion concert at Issue Project Room, complete with an installation of Cage’s Song Books, some Cornelius Cardew, Jon Gibson, and works by the brilliant composer-performers from within the group.  It was a blast to be back together, and a beautiful send-off complete with members and guests past-and-present.  The Knights were also in full-swing that week, working on a project combining dance + live music with BalletCollective at the Gelsey Kirkland Arts Center down in DUMBO.  My MetroCard got a hard workout during that stretch for sure.

Back up to Cornell I went to see my brilliant students and take in the first ice storm of the season.  It was then a game of Ithaca-Minneapolis tag with a CMSM concert plus a recital of the full Brahms violin sonata cycle with pianist Kyung Kim and jumping back east to teach in-between.  Oh yea, and we managed to throw my dad a surprise retirement party somewhere in there too!  Good thing I’ve sold my soul to Delta…

With Thanksgiving somewhere in the middle, The Knights hit the road with a tour of Hunter, Washington, D.C., Montreal, and NYC in a special program entitled “Homage to Bach” during which each member of the small group stepped forward to play movements of solo Bach and/or duos, trios, and quartets by those he inspired.  The concert at the Montreal Bach Festival was particularly memorable, especially considering the ridiculous number of Fairmount bagels I ate after the show (don’t worry, New York, my loyalty still lies with you)…

My students gave a killer recital at Ithaca’s Carriage House (my favorite place to play up there, no doubt) to close out the semester and then it was off to California for my annual volunteer trip to work with Scott Krijnen’s kiddos at Castillero Middle.  Lucky for me, there was an explosion of little cherubs born to those near and dear to me just before I departed, so I got lots of baby time after work each day.

Christmas was a lovely family affair complete with tons of cooking and even more eating (though my lame immune system gave out and I fought the flu for most of it).  Then it was off to New Year’s Eve in Seoul with my cousins, Bangkok for this residency, and tomorrow I fly south to Sydney to celebrate a dear childhood friend Alice’s nuptials down under…a bluegrass show back in Ithaca in a few days feels half a world away.  Literally.

And here we go, photo time!

Can I just say how much I love early voting!?

In-between Knights concerts with my lovely former students and friends Angela & Amit

Ne(x)tworks reunion time…”Song Books” and loving on the great Joan La Barbara

The whole crew post-show at IPR

Brahms time @ the University of Minnesota and then a surprise retirement party for Papa Kim (cuz he’d boycott if we did it any other way)…

Dvorak @ CMSM with the return of our beloved guest artist Nobuko Imai

Selfie time with Andrew Ousley at Unison Media’s fabulous winter arts salon…

…and…gutter cleaning. Ah, the joys of homeownership.

Thanksgiving! My NYC kitchen did me right – spent the weekend with Ieva, Chris, and Alma

Montreal Bach Festival concert and post-show with old friends Andrew and Esme…

…and, famous Fairmount Bagels, circa 1am…

Cornell Fall 2019 Studio Recital!

Meeting my new cousin, baby Emmett…the first 2nd-gen kiddo of our Kim fam!

…and meeting little Elliot, Andrea’s new little one!

…meeting little Madeline (that’s proud big sis Olivia)

Castillero time with Scott and the Rankins, plus dinner at the Innekens’ to honor the newest recipient of Corry’s cello

The famous Mann holiday chamber music party.  We miss you, Bobby!

Family Christmastime – mama and I made Korean food for a small army…

One spoiled bear. Basil flying in style to Korea…

NYE in Seoul!

New Year’s Day feast prepared by my dear cousins and then some ice skating!

Exploring the National Gugak Museum

Bangkok Residency with Piyawat and students from Aum Aree and PGVIM

At the elephant sanctuary – a baby that was rescued with his mama when he was only 2 weeks old. And…BATHTIME!