Ball State graduate student wins second place in international piano competition

Topic: College of Fine Arts

May 31, 2007

Jooyoung Kim
Jooyoung Kim
For a Ball State graduate student studying piano performance, months of intense daily practice came down to a few anxiety-filled minutes on stage at a prestigious international piano competition.

But Jooyoung Kim's nervousness melted as her concentration deepened. Her fingers skipped across the Steinway's keys and she found just the right playful touch for a Beethoven sonata, "Opus 31, No. 3 in E flat major." Then she evoked a resonating gentleness for a prelude and fugue by Bach.

The technical and emotional qualities of her performance so moved the judges that Kim won second place in the 12th biennial international piano competition sponsored by the Beethoven Club. Fifty-seven entrants representing some of the finest music conservatories and universities worldwide put their talents to the test during the May 20 event in Memphis, Tenn.

"I'm really, really happy," Kim said of the second-place win that brought with it a $2,000 prize. "It is really a great honor for me and a very worthy recognition of Ball State and the School of Music."

The accomplishment is significant for Kim, a doctoral student since 2006 who aspires to become a professor. Her success at competitions - especially at the international level - is an invaluable stepping-stone toward that goal, said Bob Palmer, a distinguished professor of music and Kim's mentor.

"What's unique about a prestigious music competition - and in particular a competition at an international level - is that everyone plays very well. Exceptionally well," Palmer added. "It comes down to two things. Who plays the most solid and how moved are the judges. Your piano technique has to be fabulous, but also the musicality of the performance has to say something."

Palmer describes Kim's technique as dazzling and her musical interpretation as maturing wonderfully. It's high praise from the Ruth Weldy Mauzy and Mary Weldy Porter Distinguished Professor of Music, who noted the countless hours of practice Kim spent preparing her challenging selections - preparation that was in addition to the demanding academic requirements of her doctoral program.

"Our doctorate is extremely challenging, especially for international students like Jooyoung, who is from South Korea. The degree takes a great deal of time and dedication for all students, but it's even more demanding when you factor in the extra challenges faced by international students, especially since English is their second language" Palmer said.

This is not Kim's first success during an international piano competition. Last January, she was a semifinalist in the Bosendorfer International Piano Competition in Tempe, Ariz.

"To the best of my knowledge, I don't believe we've had a current Ball State student achieve such success on the international stage," Palmer said. "Certainly, we've had a fair number of our alumni who have achieved success in international competitions and on the international stage after graduation, but this is the first time I can recall a current student receiving such acclaim. It speaks well for Ball State and the School of Music. It says we have really gifted and talented students here."

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