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Teacher Spotlight: Yumy Kim, Suzuki piano


Yumy Lee Kim, Suzuki piano

Interview by Erin Cano, violin


Dr. Yumy Kim joined MIC in 2016

What led you to become a Suzuki teacher?

My first teaching position required me to take Suzuki teacher training. I was hired in the fall, but Suzuki training in Chicago wasn’t available until the summer. During my first year of teaching, I worked with traditional students in private lessons and coached students of Suzuki teachers in piano duo classes. I soon saw quite a difference in the Suzuki students who were very musical, always well-prepared and accompanied by interested, engaged parents. I started to ask myself, what the secret was – was it the Suzuki Method? With a lot of curiosity, I started Suzuki teacher training in the following summer. At that time, I was still a doctoral student in piano. I recognized after accomplishing the Book 1 training that I could apply all I learned in my own studies to younger students. The Suzuki Method offers wonderful tools and ideas to ‘tailor’ piano education true to the age and needs of each student in a playful, encouraging, and loving way.


Which of your teachers inspired you the most? What aspects of their teaching have you integrated into your own style?

All of my teachers taught and inspired me in different ways. James Tocco helped me to become more independent as a musician and inspired me through his colorful playing. Konstanze Eickhorst encouraged me to work more in detail and taught me how to practice effectively. Dr. Sylvia Wang taught me the art of analyzing one’s playing, how to organize an interpretation and to never give up. Concerning teaching, I’m grateful to Alan Chow, who allowed me to observe his teaching for two years and to work with one of his MIC Academy students. He has such a gentle, polite way of expressing his thoughts, and a beautiful, golden sound when he demonstrates. I also don’t want to forget Caroline Fraser, who taught me that children learn and absorb with their senses. This is profoundly different from adults!


You’re the mom of a Suzuki child. What insights have you developed as both a Suzuki parent and teacher?

Being a parent and a teacher definitely helps me to better understand the relationship and dynamic towards a student. I can encourage the parents in my studio, especially when there are sometimes struggles (which are natural). Regarding my son, I’m grateful that he wants to stay as my student. I personally have to watch out that I’m not too much the ‘correcting’ teacher, but also as much the ‘encouraging’ parent!


You’ve had the opportunity to perform as a soloist with orchestras around the world. What are some memorable performance experiences that you had?

I was 15 years old when I had the first opportunity to play with an orchestra. Until then, I felt quite lonely playing and practicing the piano, because there were not many kids in my environment who played an instrument so intensively. But playing with an orchestra meant having 30-40 other musicians playing with and for you. I was so moved. It was an incredible experience of teamwork and togetherness that I had never experienced before.


One time, I was supposed to play ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ in Hungary at the Vigado Hall. Unfortunately, my flight (I lived in Germany at that time) was delayed. I was panicking because I might miss my one-and-only orchestra rehearsal before the concert. Luckily I made it to the rehearsal only 15 minutes late. I must have unconsciously tried to make up for the time – the conductor told me he never heard anyone play the repeated notes section in the Rhapsody so quickly!


What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Ever since joining the Suzuki community, teaching has become such a passion that I love taking teacher training or teaching at institutes and camps in my free time. Reflecting on my own teaching, as well as meeting new students and teachers who love music is very inspiring.

When I really want to rest and need a break, I watch Korean dramas!

Teacher Spotlight on Jeremiah Benham, guitar
Teacher Spotlight on Jeremiah Benham, guitar

What led you to become a Suzuki teacher? "I felt that learning and teaching are very similar processes......"