Humans of Pacific Symphony: Meet Concertmaster Dennis Kim

Growing up in Toronto, Canada, Dennis Kim remembers his childhood fondly in a city perfect for kids to run around in and participate in all kinds of sports such as baseball, soccer, and hockey. In the summer, in between all the sweaty, physical activities, Kim would make his way over to his family’s variety store to hang out and relax. It was at this local variety store that a boy walked in one summer day with an interesting shaped carrier. Curious, Kim asked the boy what was inside and the stranger pulled out his violin. 

Fast forward many years later, Kim has since become an accomplished violinist and is now concertmaster at Pacific Symphony. 

“If it had been a saxophone in that case, I might be Dennis G today!” Kim exclaimed while reminiscing about his first encounter with a violin.

He has an impressive resume which ranges from performance, teaching, and recording for the film and television industries. At just the age of 14, Kim made his solo debut with the Toronto Philharmonic performing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor. At 22, he served as concertmaster for Tucson Symphony and later became the youngest concertmaster of the Hong Kong Philharmonic. Since then, he has spent many years leading orchestras all over the world in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Read more about Kim’s background here.

Being a musician has opened up a world of opportunities and exciting adventures for Kim, but it may be surprising to hear that this amazing career was almost cut short. While messing around with friends at school, Kim managed to get a finger on his right hand caught in an old, rusty gate at the edge of the playground. A whole 3 inches of the finger was snapped off! He was only about 4 or 5 years old. 

“The doctors took skin from another part of my body to put onto the finger. The accident made me take a whole year off of practicing! I was lucky that it was on my right hand. If it had been my left, I would definitely not be playing the violin today.”

Overall, Kim believes he was very lucky in many ways, not just with his finger, that allowed him to become the musician he is today. Most importantly, he is very grateful to have had such devoted parents when it came to music.

“We weren’t well off growing up, but I don’t remember ever skipping a lesson. They were fully supportive. Being talented is important, but if you don’t have the support of your parents it’s impossible.”

One of the creative ways Kim’s father showed his support was getting him an aquarium. Every good lesson Kim had growing up, his father would buy him a new fish for his aquarium. Needless to say, young Kim collected many fish as he proved to be a talented student. It did not take long before he needed to buy another tank.

After high school, Kim studied with some of the most prestigious music schools including the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and Yale School of Music in New Haven. 

“Coming from Toronto, Curtis and Yale was a very special time for me. I got to meet the best musicians in the world. It was amazing to be surrounded by that kind of talent.”

One of his favorite memories at Yale was being able to teach undergraduate students. They were music minors and were really doing it out of the joy and love for music. Their hard work inspired Kim and helped him fall in love with teaching. Kim currently teaches a small studio at University of California, Irvine and Orange County School of Arts (OCSA).

“It’s important to continue what I learned by passing it down. I like how teaching allows me to pass down stuff you can’t read in books or learn in other ways, special stuff I can pass down to the next generation.”

These last five years, Kim has lived in California working with Pacific Symphony. Being able to work and live in Southern California is a very unique opportunity for a musician. Now so close to Hollywood, Kim has been asked to work on many films, television series, and videogames. Kim would consider himself a huge Star Wars fan so being asked to work on the last Star Wars film was an honor and joy for him. Working with John Williams has been one of the best highlights of his career.

“John Williams conducts himself with no clicktracks so it makes the experience really special. Not only the great music, but his energy, his passion, it’s all very inspiring.” 

As a foodie and sports fan, Kim has found Southern California to be one of the best places he has lived in. 

“When I used to travel I would make a list of food or restaurants I wanted to try in that city, even cities I used to live in, but now that’s completely gone. Everything I crave from other countries I can get here. You can find the best Asian food, Italian food, Mexican food, and just everything here.”

“I’m a huge sports fan, playing and watching. I have incredibly generous friends who invite me to their suites to watch the Angels, Ducks, and Rams!”

Staying active playing sports or working out is very important to Kim. He is a very competitive and enthusiastic golfer, even though a bit lousy. He also plays racquetball with some friends he has made over the years with the Symphony. On a typical day, Kim likes to start his day off early at the gym listening to his John Stewart and Bill Simmons podcasts. 

“Keeping in shape and being physically healthy is important for musicians because it can be physically taxing. It’s also a chance to do something physical because for musicians it’s a lot of driving and a lot of sitting.”

Come see Kim perform the world premiere of John Wineglass’s violin concerto, Joshua Tree: Scenes from the Mojave with Pacific Symphony this week, Feb. 23-25. Carl St. Clair will conduct Tchaikovsky & Strauss at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Get tickets here

Humans of Pacific Symphony: Meet Concertmaster Dennis Kim
Tagged on:             

One thought on “Humans of Pacific Symphony: Meet Concertmaster Dennis Kim

  • February 22, 2023 at 11:35 am

    My husband, Joe (RIP), and I discovered the Pacific Symphony 20 years ago. We were instantly “hooked” and became season subscribers. Recently, a friend asked if he could buy Joe’s season ticket and accompany me to season concerts. I LOVE THE PACIFIC SYMPHONY!


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: