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‘Whenever You’re Ready’: Local concert pianist switches keys to publish her first book

Local concert pianist Jeeyoon Kim has written her first book, intending to help others be successful in life.
(Courtesy of Jeeyoon Kim)

To help others compose the performance of their lives, local concert pianist Jeeyoon Kim made a switch from piano keys to computer keys to write her first book, “Whenever You’re Ready: How to Compose the Life of Your Dreams.”

The book, published Aug. 24, contains a series of lessons Kim has cultivated over decades of playing professionally. She says she’s sharing them now to help others achieve success, no matter their field.

“I find that preparing for concerts is so similar to preparing for life,” Kim said. “Everyone has a stage called life.”

Kim has performed many times for the La Jolla Music Society and La Jolla’s Scripps Research Institute, as well as at Carnegie Hall in New York and with the Chamber Music Society in San Francisco and the Stradivari Society in Chicago.

Kim, who grew up in South Korea and now lives in Hillcrest, said she is a “messenger of music” and that performing is a way for her to communicate “soul” with her audience.

She said writing a book is a similar interaction for her. “I categorize myself as an introvert; the intimate relationship between readers and authors is so special.”

The title of the book, she said, comes from the “30 seconds before I go on every stage. There is a stage guy holding that door to the stage [who] says, ‘Whenever you’re ready.’”

“At that moment, I have to create so much courage and tell myself, ‘Yes, you are ready, you are enough, just the way you are,’” Kim said.

“People think, ‘Oh, you’re so talented,’” she said. “They don’t understand that life is so much more complex than someone [having] a magic potion of talent. It’s a lot of discipline and perseverance.”

Kim, who also has a podcast and YouTube channel and teaches music, said her success also springs from learning how to protect herself from negativity and connect with others.

She structured the book as a concert, complete with a prelude, movements and an encore, interspersed with “intermissions” — Kim’s explanations of her favorite piano compositions.

Pianist and author Jeeyoon Kim says "dreaming is a muscle" that needs exercising.
(Courtesy of Jeeyoon Kim)

The book is written as “a conversation about life,” she said, and includes activities for readers to work through that Kim has used throughout her life.

In one movement — or chapter — in the book, Kim discusses definitions of success. “A lot of success right now is defined by numbers,” she said — tickets sold, dollars earned, Instagram followers.

“My wish for success is [that] my inner being is not shaken by life crisis or [an] external thing,” Kim said. “If I’m content, then I’m successful.”

She said she wants readers to know that “you can be successful right now if you choose to. The answer is not outside but inside.”

Another movement explores Kim’s idea that “dreaming is a muscle” that needs to be exercised if dreams are to be realized.

She said she was once given a postcard of Carnegie Hall and thought, “That would be nice to play” there. The next day, she called Carnegie Hall and said, “I’m really awkward about this, but how can I play there?”

Kim said she was given a list of steps to achieve to be allowed onstage. She worked on the list until, two years later, she walked onto the Carnegie Hall stage and said into the microphone, “Welcome to my dream.”

“If you have crazy dreams [that you] follow by tiny steps, you could make it,” she said.

Kim will return to La Jolla for a concert at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center in March. She called performing in La Jolla a “homecoming.”

“It’s a different feeling whenever I perform here,” she said. “The crowds are different. It’s more energy because people already know me.”

She said she was the first pianist to play in the Conrad during its acoustic testing before the center opened to the public. “I was wearing a construction hat. … The first note came from me. It felt like giving a birth.”

Kim will appear online courtesy of Warwick’s bookstore at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14. For more information, visit warwicks.com/event/jeeyoon-kim-2021.

“Whenever You’re Ready: How to Compose the Life of Your Dreams” is available for purchase at bit.ly/JeeyoonKim.