David Kim

Today, a symphony orchestra is most often - but not always - led by a conductor.  As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, in some cases, the concertmaster may lead the group – but not from the conductor’s podium.

Benjamin Ealovega

Join us for a Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert re-broadcast from last February, that looks back to a time when concerto soloists and members of instrumental ensembles led their colleagues, while also performing themselves.

Jan Regan / The Philadelphia Orchestra

At the end of Sunday’s half marathon in Paris, three familiar faces from The Philadelphia Orchestra cross the finish line, running arm in arm, on what wasn’t a day of rest from the Orchestra's 2015 Europe tour. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Patrick Stearns reports from the sidelines.

Ryan Donnell

“You fool,” David Kim said to himself. He looked out the window at the moon. He and his wife had just seen the movie Jerry Maguire, with Tom Cruise as the sports agent trying to make the A-level. David Kim had spent his entire life trying to make the A-level. And it wasn’t happening.

His mother, before he was born, vowed to make him a violin star. His parents came to the U.S. from South Korea, and from Rochester, N.Y. to Western Pennsylvania to South Carolina, his mother was a true “Tiger mom,” he says, constantly pushing him to excel. She got him an audition with Dorothy DeLay at Juilliard, mentor to so many of the world’s top soloists. DeLay accepted him on the spot after what he describes as a “magical” audition.

From Clarion, Pa., the family drove eight hours for David to attend the Juilliard Pre-College Division. From South Carolina he and his mother flew once a month. Of DeLay he has the “few really happy memories” of that time; she was “sweet, genuine, soft-spoken, charismatic, motivational,” and perhaps most important of all, “encouraging.”

Three to five hours every day he practiced. He went to Aspen nine weeks each summer, but his playing regressed because, alone, he stopped pushing himself. DeLay noticed, and so did his mother. But in one phone call she was uncharacteristically subdued. When he returned home at the end of the summer, he found out that his mother was sick with cancer. She died within months. He was 14.

From the award-winning movie, Music from the Inside Out, David Kim reflects on his life:

David stopped working hard and he struggled at school. But DeLay made a plan. In six years, she said, he would get into the International Tchaikovsky Competition, and he would win one of the eight medals. They made it happen, and in the second round he “felt a certain magic happening” as he played. In 1986 David Kim was the only American violinist to win a medal. He thought his career was made.

He would learn differently. There are many competitions, and many winners, and this one prize, as fantastic as it was, “wasn’t special enough to really warrant an A-list career.” So he played lots of concerts in small halls, in churches, and puffed himself up to others. “I was living this fake life,” he confesses. And he came to a decision.

“You fool,” he said in his apartment, looking at the moon, “you are never going to be a soloist.”

So he applied for orchestra jobs, and after a string of losing auditions, he realized that “there’s an art to taking an orchestral audition.” He worked harder, kept taking them, and finally, on one day, was offered two jobs. He accepted the associate concertmaster position at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. He learned enormously, and a year later, The Philadelphia Orchestra called. They were having invitation-only auditions for concertmaster. David thought this was “way out of my league” but went anyway, with “zero expectations.”

But at the Philadelphia audition magic struck again, the same feeling he had at the Tchaikovsky, the same feeling he had auditioning for Dorothy DeLay. The phone rang later, and Joseph Kluger, the Orchestra’s president at the time, asked him, “How would you feel about moving to Philadelphia?”

David admits to making mistakes early on but he grew into the concertmaster position he accepted in 1999. His Christian faith grew at the same time, and he now has a peace knowing that he wouldn’t be here if it weren’t God’s will. “Being yourself, you free yourself,” he says, and he is surrounded by an orchestra that is a positive, encouraging, and loving community.

After years of scrambling for something that didn’t exist, he is thankful for his faith, his wife, his daughters, and The Philadelphia Orchestra. In his 16th year as concertmaster, David Kim says, “I am the luckiest guy in the whole world.”

Join us on Sunday, January 25th at 1 pm for a Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert re-broadcast of a Verizon Hall performance first heard in December of 2013. You'll hear two delightful pieces by Tchaikovsky that feature Concertmaster David Kim as soloist: the Serenade Melancholique, and Valse-Scherzo - both personally meaningful works to Mr. Kim, who was the only American awarded a prize at the 1986 quadrennial Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.

Ryan Donnell

In the 1870s, Tchaikovsky composed such large scale works as Swan Lake, Symphonies 2, 3, and 4, and Variations on a Rococo Theme. But, as WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, in the same years, he was also writing short orchestral pieces with emotional power and technical virtuosity. She discusses two of these pieces, Melancolique and Valse-Scherzo, with violinist David Kim, the Philadelphia Orchestra's concertmaster .  

Music From the Inside Out: The Story of David Kim

Listen to WRTI 90.1 FM at 1 pm on Sunday for a special archival Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcast from February 19, 2005. On the podium is the Orchestra’s former Music Director Wolfgang Sawallisch, just 2 weeks before his last appearance with the Philadelphians.

On the program that day were Hindemith’s Concert Music for Strings and Brass, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D, played brilliantly by the Orchestra's Concertmaster David Kim, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 - all works that were special to the late Maestro.

Venerated conductor Christoph von Dohnányi conducts the music of two Viennese masters this Sunday, July 21st  at 2 pm, in a Philadelphia Orchestra concert from last March at Verizon Hall.

Franz Schubert's beloved "Unfinished" Symphony has taken a rightful place among the standards of the repertoire, even if we may never understand why he abandoned the work after just two enduring movements. And Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 4, "Romantic," was his first great symphonic success, a breathtaking work that inspires audiences every time it's performed.

Composed 52 years apart, the two works are tailor-made for the dense, glorious string sound of The Fabulous Philadelphians.

Christoph von Dohnanyi talks about the works at Intermission with WRTI's Jim Cotter.  Also, during Intermission, WRTI's Susan Lewis discusses the importance of the conductor's approach when performing these two works with Philadelphia Orchestra Concertmaster David Kim.

It's Viennese Masters with The Philadelphia Orchestra, this Sunday from 2 to 4 pm. Gregg Whiteside is host and producer.

Detailed Program Notes Here at The Philadelphia Orchestra's Website


Schubert: Symphony in B minor ("Unfinished")


Bruckner: Symphony No. 4 ("Romantic")

WRTI’s concert broadcast of The Philadelphia Orchestra on Sunday, July 21, 2013 features the music of two Romantic Viennese masters.  WRTI’s Susan Lewis talks with concertmaster David Kim about how the symphonies of Franz Schubert and Anton Bruckner bring out the famous Philadelphia sound, and about the interpretation of guest conductor Christoph von Dohnanyi. 

Listen to this Sunday’s WRTI concert broadcast of The Philadelphia Orchestra at 2 pm, which will include an interview at Intermission with concertmaster David Kim.

Terry O'Neill

Listen on Sunday, April 14, 2 to 4 pm to two works, composed 52 years apart, that are tailor-made for the dense, glorious string sound of The Fabulous Philadelphians: Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 8 in B minor, also known as the "Unfinished Symphony," and Anton Bruckner's Symphony No. 4, "Romantic."