Bum Namkoong never opens his eyes when he performs his clarinet in front of people. Now after years of intense practice, many lessons, and closed-eyed performances, he has won his first music competition as a clarinetist. Namkoong received first place in the Dexter Community Orchestra’s Youth Artist Competition.
“To be honest, I wasn’t expecting it at all,” said Namkoong, “I was really surprised, I was really happy too. I called my parents right away.” Along with a $300 prize, Namkoong will be honored by performing a solo piece entitled, Premiere Rhapsody, at the Dexter Community Orchestra concert at 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 17.
Namkoong began his musical journey at age nine when he began playing the piano. He also tried violin in his elementary school years, until he found his passion for playing the clarinet in sixth grade. He began taking lessons with Cecilia Kang, a mentor that he praised as the first one that motivated him to practice. Kang also was able to connect Namkoong with his current teacher, Professor Dan Gilbert of the University of Michigan.
Namkoong has valued the many lessons he has had with Professor Gilbert.
“Before I met him, I didn’t think about majoring in music at all,” said Namkoong, “Then Mr. Gilbert showed up and everything changed, he made me really love clarinet.” Namkoong will be continuing his musical studies next year with Professor Gilbert while attending the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance.
Beyond college, Namkoong is looking forward to a long future with his clarinet. “I would like to join an orchestra, and teach high school students,” he said. With his talents, perhaps Namkoong will be able to make a positive impact on many clarinet students, as his teachers have made on him.
In the meantime, the clarinet will continue to be a large part of Namkoong’s own academic life as he continues to hone his skill with the instrument that seemed to have chosen him, rather than the other way around.
“When I’m stressed, I just play clarinet,” noted Namkoong. Playing his instrument of choice is always something that has come naturally to him. After starting on other instruments that ended up feeling a bit forced during his practice time with them, practicing the clarinet winded up being something that came naturally. “Nobody had to make me practice with it … I just did it.”
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