‘She’s just that good’: KSU orchestra concert features award-winning violinist

By Anna Streetman

KENNESAW, Ga. – Kennesaw State University’s symphony orchestra had its 75th concert of the season on Wednesday featuring a special performance from award-winning violinist Helen Kim.

The orchestra performed selections from musicians such as Leopold Stokowski and Felix Mendelssohn. The Peachtree Ridge High School Chamber and the Duluth High School chamber joined KSU’s orchestra for the final act. The chambers performed “Mars, the Bringer of War” and “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity,” both written by Gustav Holst.

Violinist Helen Kim was the featured soloist for the concert. Kim has a master’s degree in violin performance from Julliard and has received several prestigious awards for her work. She made her musical debut at Calgary Philharmonic at the age of six. She has been an associate professor of violin at KSU since 2006.

“Watching her play was just amazing,” said Crystal Lawrence, a KSU student who attended the concert. “I mean there was a part where I just whispered ‘wow’ to myself. She’s just that good.”

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Kim performing a solo for “Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in E minor” by Felix Mendelssohn. (Photo by Anna Streetman)

Brittany Thayer, a violinist since middle school and a graduate of KSU’s music school, also speaks highly of Kim.

“She was a phenomenal teacher who constantly went above and beyond for me,” Thayer said. “She constantly pushed me to give 100 percent, not only in my personal practice or lessons, but in everything that I did.”

During her time at KSU, Thayer practiced three to five hours a day, taught 30 private students of her own every week, and took music gigs whenever she had the time.

Thayer is currently working towards her master’s degree for violin performance at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She still talks to Kim every few weeks for mentorship advice and visits her when she is in Georgia.

KSU’s symphony orchestra began in the Fall of 2004. The orchestra has performed at the Georgia Music Educator’s Association In-Service Conference and has worked with violinist David Perry. During the 2011-2012 season, the orchestra performed with popular rock band Kansas at the Cobb Energy Centre. The orchestra has also toured Beijing and Xian, China.

Nathaniel Parker, the interim director of orchestras at KSU, says that he aims to teach music students “more than just music.”

“I want to help my students grow creatively,” he said. “I teach them how to be marketable, how to self-promote online, and try to teach them different skillsets. The more skills you have, the more marketable you are.”

Parker also stresses the importance of unity in an orchestra.

“It’s important to remember that when you are in an orchestra, you are part of a group,” Parker said. “You have to know what’s going on around outside your own musical bubble. I always say, ‘Don’t just come with just your notes, but with everybody else’s too.’ An orchestra is a single heartbeat, a single pulse. Every single person has to work together to create a unified sound. Giving a great performance is the ultimate goal in mind.”

Thayer says that her experience with KSU’s orchestra is one she will never forget.

“KSU’s music program is undervalued and excellent,” Thayer says. “I’m constantly inspired by the faculty there and the work ethic of the students. I learned that no matter what happens, I’ll always have music. I feel like I have made connections and gathered skills that I will take with me for the rest of my life.”

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