For 13-year-old local Walter Reed Middle School student, Ho Joon Kim, he knew that being invited to be filmed on Christopher O’Riley’s radio and TV show “From the Top” was a big deal. It was like being invited to play Carnegie Hall.
And since the long title of O’Riley’s show is called “From the Top at Carnegie Hall” then, it’s sort of like playing the famous venue for musicians.
“I knew it was a big deal, I’ve been wanting to be on the show since fifth grade,” said the youth, who is now in the award-winning Chamber Orchestra at the public middle school.
Kim’s show is airing this week on the radio and TV station starting Monday, Oct. 22, and is viewable online. (Also see the videos for clips of the show.) Click here to hear the radio show, he is 48:05 minutes into the broadcast. He plays Hungarian Rhapsody No.12 in C-Sharp minor by Franz Liszt.
Kim began playing the piano since he was 4 years old, and he also studied violin. After he applied to get on the “From the Top” show in fifth grade, he won a youth music scholarship. He studies at The Colburn School in downtown Los Angeles and went to Walter Reed for their music program. Then, the show contacted him and filmed him in July when he was studying at Chautauqua, New York over the summer.
“It was a really great experience and a lot of fun,” Kim said.
O’Riley’s show is one of the most popular weekly music series on public radio and is heralded as “contemporary culture’s feel-good success story,” by the San Francisco Chronicle. The show reaches more than 700,000 loyal listeners on nearly 250 stations each week.
Kim received the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Scholarship which provides $10,000 toward his higher education.
Surprisingly, he doesn’t want to study music in college, but instead would rather go into international affairs or politics and is eyeing Phillips Exeter Academy or Andover College as potential schools.
"I want to study law and figure out ways of how to solve problems and help people on an international level," Kim said.
“This is a bright young student, and we’re all very proud of him,” said the school’s music director Stephen McDonough. “He will be good at whatever he wants to do.”
Kim said McDonough introduced him to jazz music and he likes the improvisational style of it that is so different from the classical music he loves.
His favorite composer is Frans Liszt, not the typical answer of Mozart or Beethoven or Chopin. “He is fancy and deep and every time you hear him you can learn something about him,” Kim said. “When he was around he was a pop star.”
Korean-born Kim said he loved the piano from the moment he touched the instrument. It was a comfort for him, something that took away stress. He practices three to four hours a day when he can. His parents have been supportive in whatever he chooses to do as far as his studies.
“I know that people get famous when they go on that show, it’s a launching pad for many people, but I don’t want that,” Kim said.
But, as McDonough said, “Meanwhile, his fellow musicians and everyone at the school is proud of him.”