Mihi Kim (France)
Born in Korea, Mihi Kim began studying flute at an early age. At ten years old Alain Marion noticed her, and she traveled to Europe to continue her studies with him, Andras Adorjan, Paul Meisen and Pierre-Yves Artaud. In France and Germany she distinguished herself by training at some of the finest music schools: Hochschule für Musik in Cologne, Hochschule für Musik in Munich (where she earned her Master's degree), and the 'perfectionnement' level at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris where she also earned the French national teaching award for her instrument.
Ms. Kim has also participated in numerous international competitions. Among her honors are first prize at the International Music Competition of Bayreuth in 2000 and a laureate of the fifth Jean-Pierre Rampal International Flute Competition in Paris in 1988. Her passion for new techniques is the origin of her first interactive flute method for beginners, "Fluting Up!" and "Fluting Up LS". They are currently published in 6 languages. (Editions du Leitmotiv, Paris).
Ms. Kim is currently pursuing her career as an international soloist in Europe and Asia, and regularly gives master classes in France and abroad. She has taught in Germany, Korea, Taiwan, Serbia, Japan, and Slovenia, and will soon teach in Italy, the US, England, and Chile.
Her collaboration with the composer Régis Campo led her to produce two CDs - "Autoportraits", published by Mandala/Harmonia Mundi, and a second disc on the Aeon label. She is slated to have two more CDs finished by the end of the year: a disc with works by Asian composers and featuring traditional songs, and a collection of baroque Sonatas played on the piccolo.
She currently teaches at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris "Alfred Cortot" and Issy-Les-Moulineaux. She has also been a member of the Ensemble Multilatérale since 2005.
Mihi Kim (France)
We had the opportunity to ask Mihi a few questions. Take a look at her thoughts on preparation for major performances, balancing international traveling with a local career as well as advice for upcoming flutists.
1. How do you go about preparing for a performance? What do you do months ahead of time as well as the day of the performance?
I have a plan that I use as often as possible. It is difficult, however, to have the ideal conditions every time; especially if I have to teach and travel on top of simultaneous programs and projects. Therefore this count-down might be quite approximate!
For contemporary repertoire I start preparing the piece 6 months ahead of time. For classical repertoire, or for pieces that I have previously performed, I begin practicing 3 months ahead of time. Pieces being played by memory must be ready 2 months ahead of time. I schedule a few rehearsals early on so that I can get an idea of how much work will be needed. I also listen to other works by the composer, if there are any, because I think that about 6 weeks before the performance you get to the point where you know what to do but you just need a little more inspiration.
I always organize a small house concert with friends about 3 weeks before an important performance. After this performance, I usually stop practicing the programmed music for a while and play other pieces. I like to spend full days practicing scales and intensive daily excercises. If it’s possible, I will go visit the hall.
About a week before the performance, I begin practicing the prepared program again, this time applying new ideas. It is important to have your flute working properly, so if there is any work that needs to be done you should consider scheduling an appointment in advance. I also think it is important to eat & sleep really well days before a performance. I do this by starting a diet consisting of more proteins and carbs.
On the day of the performance I do about an hour of long tones, then I play the piece slowly. I eat pasta, try to rest a bit, and do any last minute checks on difficult spots.
2. How do you balance your international travels with your local career? Do you find this difficult?
It is an amazing opportunity to get to travel and experience people of different cultures. Doing so helps you to develop your ability to adapt. For example, you would never play a Prokofiev Sonata the same way in Korea or in Germany! The most difficult part, however, is the jet lag. I can certainly manage the performances, but exposing my body to this kind of lifestyle might not be good in the long run. I need (and have) a good chiropractor!
I mostly have professional students that travel long distances for their lessons so I can easily see them for longer periods of time once or twice a week. In which case we do one lesson on technique and one focusing on interpretation, or one solo and one with piano. In other words, I am quite free as far as scheduling is concerned.
3. Who or what has been your greatest influence?
There have been three major things:
The lesson Jean-Pierre Rampal gave me when I was 16. I was a gifted child that lacked special care or thoughts, but he was the one who taught me that emotions can be included in music, and he helped me how to express them through music. In just one lesson, I played the Khachaturian Concerto, at the end I learned how to invest myself into performance. When I think about it now and compare how much time it takes for me to teach this to my (very gifted) students, I really admire him and his generosity.
When I was a freshman at the Cologne Musikhochschule with Adorjan, I had an apartment where I could practice 24/7. It was a small cabin inside a wide garden, a kind of storage facility remodeled to a 1 bedroom flat. I remember practicing 10-12 hours a day looking at the herb garden outside, so green after rain in the cool German weather. And at that time, I was completely hooked on one CD I had, Glen Gould and Jaime Laredo; Bach Sonatas for violin. I had a wonderful vintage headset with warm depths, cocooning after a long day of practice by listing to it again and again, over and over. And just being happy. (I understood the notion of time and the idea of not having boundaries while making music. Nowadays people are way too stressed and everything has to be quick. It is so important to know how to stop paying attention to time for several minutes, or hours if you get some luxury. Also within an interpretation, if you can give the audience a little bit of timelessness, it may become the greatest thing ever.)
At the new year, at my apartment in Aachen Germany while I was a student of Paul Meisen (and I traveled 600+600 miles by train every week to go to my lesson in Munich; 12 hours of train for every 1 hour lesson. I already had a teaching job, so I was obliged to), looking for some inspiration for my upper graduate recital (Prokofiev), I was literally struck by an interpretation of Shlomo Mintz playing the Carmen Fantasy with orchestra. During the whole piece, I was standing in front of my dishwashing in rubber gloves, water was flowing, and I just absorbed every single note of the broadcast on TV. That is precisely where I wanted to use my flute like a violin, as much expression, as much joy, as much brilliance, and unfortunately, as much work. ;)
4. How did you decide to play the flute?
At first, I was just a kid who was jealous of the neighbor kid doing something with a shiny object. The surprise came after when it turned out that I was gifted, so I continued just to see how far I could get. And I’m still watching. ;)
5. What is the most valuable lesson the flute has taught you?
Humility. You can give so much and get nothing in return, just as you can get everything as a gift. Since there is no direct relationship to "right" and "wrong", and everything is relative, you have to open up yourself and not be angry about not being capable of predicting or expecting things.
Also, being sure that flute, and music, is a commitment you’ve made to yourself. Good days or bad days, you are completely devoted to accept the art in its entirety.
6. As an award winner in many categories, how do you go about preparing for competitions and what advice can you give?
You must know that you are capable to win, but that the final decision does not depend 100% on you. So I would say, have confidence and acceptance of risks. Keep your eyes open to catch any opportunity to fill up your notes, be lucid to stay with good taste, step back when it becomes too risky, but only then, not a second before. Have faith.
7. What do you think is the most important thing for you to emphasize in your teaching and in your own playing?
Being sure about my truth and what I have to say, yet also know that my ideas sometimes will not be universal. Making sure if I am doing (teaching, playing) not for my own but theirs. Never oppress joy but always keep negative feelings under control, even expressed.
8. What does a typical day look like for you?
I am a morning person, which is why I need to change my schedule to be on top of my game for evening concerts. In France, concerts often start at 8:30 or even 9 p.m. A typical day for me would include: doing paperwork, overseas phone calls before 9 or 10 a.m., practicing from 10 until 1 or 2 p.m. with a 40 minute lunch break, and then go to teach lessons and/or rehearsals. I continue to practice until about 7-8 p.m. with a dinner break just before 6. I usually jog or swim in the evening 3 or 4 times a week, relax and then go to bed before midnight if I don’t have a concert. If I do have a performance coming up, 4 days before the concert I will start waking up at 9:30 a.m. and go to bed at 1:30 a.m. so that I can become adjusted to staying up later. After the performance, I can rarely sleep before 2 or 3 a.m. The next day then becomes quite short to adjust back to my normal schedule.
9. How did you come to choose Miyazawa as your flute of choice?
The fact that flute players don’t have as wide of a range of dynamic capabilities that violin players have has always upset me. That is, until I discovered the Miyazawa platinum flute! It was a revelation. The first thing I did was play a concert with the Franck Sonata, with the piano opened all the way - full stick!
Why platinum? Because this metal allows pure sound and power without waisting air - my phrases became even longer. You can really feel the vibrations of the flute under your fingers and experience the complete merging of sounds between the piano and the flute.
Why Miyazawa? I love my MZ-7 headjoint. And I feel like my flute is really just an extension of myself. My flute follows me with every move. It goes as fast as I want, as soft as I want, etc. And even in extremly low or high temperatures, everything stays perfect.
Why Miyazawa for my students? Because the quality is consistent in each model series. I can trust that the mechanism will be perfect and that any of their headjoints will be of high quality without any hesitation. Some of my students in other countries have to work on their own for long periods of time - I don’t want them dealing with any mechanical problems. The flute is an instrument you use every day - you need one that you can trust in any circumstance.
10. If you had one piece of advice to give for an upcoming flutist, what would you tell them?
For many years, if you reached the top you were considered a prodigy. But now we know so many scientific things about flute playing, which takes the mystery out of why some players seem so gifted. We can understand how to control our bodies as well as realize what and why we are doing things.
Do the things that you are already able to do, while implemeting the things that you wish to do. Try to understand your abilities while keeping flattery and sacrifice in balance with each other. Make an effort to attempt something new.
Stay positive and never say that you can’t do it. Some things just take more time. Follow your dreams – without dreams you have no message to transmit.
And never forget why you started playing the flute - the audience needs to see this light in your eyes when you play.