Meet the Musician: Violinist Najin Kim

Where are you from originally? 

I am originally from Seoul, South Korea. I moved to New York with my brother, a cellist, when I was 13 years old.

Najin and her brother before a duo concert

When did you begin studying the violin?  

I was 4 years old when I started to play the violin. I do not remember exactly how or why I started, but according to my mom I nagged her every day for violin lessons. 

Where did you go to school?

I went to LaGuardia High School in New York, The Juilliard School for my undergraduate degree, Yale School of Music for my graduate degree, and Peabody Institute for a graduate performance degree.

What year did you join the orchestra? 

I officially joined in 2009. I was a guest (substitute) musician from 2007 for about two years.

Did you play in any ensembles previous to the KCOHO?

Prior to joining KCOHO, I was an associate concertmaster at the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra.  I was also a guest musician with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, and New World Symphony Orchestra.

What do you like most about playing opera and ballet music?

I like opera for the beautiful arias. I feel lucky to work with singers here who are amazing.  Sometimes when I listen to their singing, I forget that I am working.  For ballet, I like that I get to play different repertoire. Occasionally I find second violin parts to be more interesting and demanding than opera. 

What is most challenging about playing in a pit orchestra vs. playing onstage?

Three come to mind. First, it is more difficult to hear each other well in the pit than on stage I think.  Sometimes it becomes very hard to hear instruments on the other side for how the pit is. Also, the pit is smaller and we have limited space for everyone. I always wish for more space. Third, having a conductor up high makes it challenging to watch him/her and the music at the same time. Such a setup is necessary however for conductors to coordinate the orchestra and the stage.

Do you have any favorite moments from your time here with the KCOHO?

Yes, I cannot forget my first opera here as a guest (substitute) musician in 2007. It was Jenufa by Janacek. The opera was beautiful, and the singers were amazing. The story was tragic and I remember being very emotional.  Now I am tougher after many operas with tragic endings, and even laugh at jokes like ‘oh, she must have revived again tonight’ but back then, I was not.  I sat with Martha Kaufman who I met for the first time. She was very sweet and I still have Jenufa CD copies she gave me. And of course The Ring was an experience I will never forget. It was a miracle for me to be part of, and to manage such a heavy schedule when I had a three month old baby at home! It was one of the most difficult operas to learn in my life.  I am proud we have done it.

Jenufa curtain call

What are you most looking forward to this season?

I look forward to every opera this season including the one I am currently on: Alcina by Handel. We have Barber of Seville, Don Carlo, and Candide left and I look forward to all of them for different reasons. To just pick one it would be the grand opera Don Carlo, which I will be playing for the first time. I am also thrilled to play Candide by Bernstein, who is my all-time favorite composer.

What do you do in your spare time away from the violin?

Najin's daughter, Christina trying to ride a stuffed horse

I have the cutest 22 month toddler at home and I would say I spend 90% of my spare time with her, if not 100%. It is the happiest time I do not want to miss.  If you asked me the same question two years ago, it would have been a boring answer like yoga, cooking, etc.

Do you have any advice for young musicians just beginning their musical journey?

Yes, that their musical journey would be happy and happier with others, and that it will be a lifetime journey of joy, some good struggles, and nonstop learning.