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La Jolla student Christopher Kim gets to first bass in youth orchestra solo competition

Christopher Kim tied for first place in the Beginning Strings division of the Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra Solo Competition.
Bishop’s School seventh-grader Christopher Kim tied for first place in the Beginning Strings division of the Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra Solo Competition.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

La Jolla student Christopher Kim orchestrated a win in the Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra’s recent Solo Competition.

Christopher, 12, a seventh-grader at The Bishop’s School, tied for first place in the Beginning Strings division, playing double bass, which he has played for about a year and a half.

The contest winners performed in a recital Nov. 21 at St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in La Jolla. Christopher played “Hatikvah,” the Israeli national anthem. It is about “suffering and perseverance,” Christopher said. “And then around the end, you’re getting hope. So it’s really emotional.”

Christopher, a Chula Vista resident, said the piece “is like life; there’s perseverance and suffering and then there’s hope that keeps you going.” He said he relies on his perseverance when practicing the double bass and in his academic work.

Christopher Kim performs at a Nov. 21 recital in La Jolla.
Christopher Kim performs on double bass at a Nov. 21 recital at St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in La Jolla for winners of the recent Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra Solo Competition.
(Ed Kim)

Christopher also played “Hatikvah” in the two competition rounds that landed him on the winners list. The competition, for young musicians who play string, woodwind, brass and percussion instruments, was open to all members of the Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra, regardless of experience.

Christopher has been a member of the Youth Orchestra for a few months.

The competitors vary in age from 5 in the Suzuki Strings division to middle schoolers in the Concert Band division to high schoolers in the Advanced Orchestra category.

The first round of competition was held virtually Oct. 16-22. Christopher sent in a video of him playing “Hatikvah” with a piano accompanist.

Instructors from the Youth Orchestra determined who would move on to the next round based on tone (beauty, intonation, control), technique (articulation, accuracy, rhythm), interpretation (style, breathing, expression) and general effect (stage presence), according to Mainly Mozart.

The second round involved performing live Nov. 6 in front of a judging panel consisting of three members of the San Diego Symphony: violinist Zou Yu, clarinet player Theresa Tunnicliff and trumpet player John MacFerran Wilds.

There were four finalists in Christopher’s Beginning Strings division. Winning a share of first place with Nathan Teng felt “pretty good,” Christopher said.

Christopher, who also plays piano, decided to learn double bass with the encouragement of professional cellist and cello professor Joon Sung Jun, a friend of his father’s.

“He pointed out the fact that I have big hands,” which are useful for the large instrument, Christopher said.

Playing music is fun, he said. “There are challenges that I overcome, and it feels good to overcome those challenges.”

Christopher said he’ll stick with double bass, wanting to improve his skills. He said he plays with MMYO more than an hour per week, practices 20 minutes a day on his own and plays with The Bishop’s School orchestra.

So far, he said, he’s the only musically inclined person in his family but said his 2-year-old twin sisters may follow his lead someday.

When he’s not playing piano or double bass, Christopher plays basketball with a club.

To learn more about the Mainly Mozart Youth Orchestra, visit mmyo.org. ◆