Compiled by Lucy Fan
The Oracle: How long have you been playing the cello?
Catherine Kim: I’ve been playing for around 10 years. I fell in love with its mellow sound and it’s that sound that keeps me playing.
TO: What is the hardest part about playing cello?
CK: The sacrifices. Every day, I need to practice at least two hours a day. Otherwise I get out of shape, similar to the way that athletes do if they haven’t worked out in a while. Playing the cello competitively also means that I can’t hang out with friends and engage in certain sports due to possible hand injuries: lacrosse, tennis, badminton.
TO: What are some of your memorable/greatest achievements?
CK: In addition to all my cello awards, I’ve got a large Facebook following. I’ve recently become a “verified” celebrity on Facebook and have accumulated over 80,000 international followers. Also, performing in Switzerland with my cello hero, Gautier Capuçon, was pretty sweet, too.
TO: Who is your greatest cello inspiration?
CK: Gautier Capuçon inspires me because of his passion for cello. He performs as if nothing else matters at that moment. He is a charmer on stage and he is very humble despite of his recent fame. I aspire to touch people through my cello playing like Gautier.
TO: What is something that you think others do not know about cello?
CK: Playing the cello is a lot like playing competitive sports. It requires the same amount of commitment and cannot be crammed. I have to practice for hours on a daily basis. And despite all this preparation, what really matters is how I perform on a specific day. All of the preparation is so that I’ll succeed in high pressure situations—recitals, competitions and recordings.
TO: Who are the people that have guided you along the process?
CK: My sister is the one who believes in my abilities. She gets me through cello recordings, accompanies me on piano at my competitions, and always encourages me. My mom is the one who coaches me through every practice session. She has taught me how to practice diligently. And lastly, my teacher coaches me on becoming both a better cellist and person.
TO: What is a normal day like for you as a cellist?
CK: Every weekday, I practice around two hours, but on weekends, I devote most of my time on cello—driving to SF for recitals, dress rehearsals, recording sessions or traveling out of town for performance and competitions. I usually juggle three to four pieces at a time and have goals for every lesson, whether it’s learning the next page of a piece, improving my left hand techniques or running the piece through.
TO: How many competitions and recitals do you do?
CK: Too many to count! In the past four years, I have been invited to perform at Carnegie Hall three times, played with two different orchestras as soloist and performed on National Public Radio with my quartet. During my junior year alone, I participated in over 15 competitions and received international recognition. This meant that I travelled at least once a month to the following locations: New York, Massachusetts, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and all over California. I’ve also performed at Verbier Festival Music Camp in Switzerland, Tanglewood String Quartet Workshop and Music@Menlo.
TO: What made you want to start?
CK: Even before I was born, my older sister played the piano. I woke up in the mornings and fell asleep at night to her playing Chopin, Rachmaninoff, you name it. I wanted to be just like her but didn’t want to compete with her because she was too good at the piano. So I chose the cello instead; I wanted my own spotlight.
TO: What are your future goals with music?
CK: My goal is to continue playing the cello wherever I am, whether it’s with friends, in a professional orchestra or by myself. In every performance, I want to be able to touch people’s hearts with my playing.