Musician Highlights: Ji Won Kim and Caleb Wright

8 April 2024, interview by Caroline Sharpen

Last year, a magical duo arrived at the TSO… Associate concertmaster Ji Won Kim and Caleb Wright, Principal Viola. In addition to their artistry and glorious music making, Ji Won and Caleb have added two bright threads to the TSO tapestry. They’re also married with two little boys. It was a pleasure to catch up with them both …

Ji Won and Caleb – huge congrats on your appointments. What have you enjoyed the most about TSO life since you arrived?

JWK: The enormous support from colleagues, my boss Emma, and Eivind. It is ironic that I got to overcome a technical/psychological hurdle during the trial. Usually the period of trial is highly stressful and may exacerbate certain struggles but it was the opposite for me - thanks to the positive attitude and support from everyone of the TSO.

CW: One of the first things one notices about Tasmania is a strong sense of community and this is true within the orchestra. The guys in the orchestra and management in general are more open and interested in many community things as well as building relationships with each other, which on the scale I'm seeing it take place is a quite unusual thing.

Could you tell us about your journeys to the violin and viola? When did you start? Was it your instrument of choice initially?

JWK: My journey with the violin started with my mum's initiation and her love of classical music. I had started with piano first to learn the notes and played the instrument till 11 years old. That was when I protested that I wanted to solely focus on violin.

CW: Like most, I started on violin but saw the light luckily quite early on, which saved me from all those higher strung and extreme competition. It suited me for many stereotypical and I also hope unstereotypical reasons. Most of all it gave me a scholarship to school and allowed me, instead of getting participation awards in the eisteddfod, to actually win.

How are you finding life in Tasmania? What has surprised you the most?

JWK: It is the best! We moved around a lot and lived in pretty much in all other bigger cities in Australia. Hobart is not only breathtakingly beautiful but has open and warm people. We were able to integrate very quickly and made wonderful friends within and outside the TSO. In the smaller cities, it can be cliquey and takes a long time to break into friendship circles but it was quite the opposite here.

CW: To be honest, I was not sure about life here before we moved, but pretty soon after the choice became clear for a number of reasons. Now I can't really think about living anywhere else!

Do you have any favourite corners of the orchestra repertoire?

JWK: My new love for orchestral repertoire has shifted from Brahms Symphonies to Choral works. The Faure Requiem TSO performed last year was so deeply moving and so I found new interest.

CW: I definitely like all the romantic classics and the later stuff also. But I'm pretty happy with most of the genres if the music is good.

What are your most looking forward to in the year ahead?

JWK: The weeks with Eivind!

CW: I have trouble knowing what's going on in my life outside of a couple of weeks, so the warm weather holding out is something I'm looking forward to, especially because yeast multiplies much quicker in the warmth (as you'll read below, this is important for Caleb's hobby of home brewing - Ed).

When you're not practicing, rehearsing and performing, what might we find you doing?

JWK: I love secondhand things for my entire family. It took a few years for Caleb to be converted to op shops. One can save a lot and still find high quality things! Caleb makes his own alcoholic beverages at home as everyone by now knows and I am his assistant 🙂

CW: I just love playing with lego, puzzles, nerf guns and monkey bars, or at least that's what I find myself doing most of the time. Depending on what's going on I enjoy playing sport, playing board games if you can find the players and time to do so and karaoke with the same constraints as board games. I guess one of the biggest disappointments about Hobart is the glaring lack of an open mic karaoke bar. It's very sad indeed. Vis a vis the alcoholic beverages - I can definitely confirm that what I am doing is completely above board and good for the community. During the worldwide lockdowns I started scratching an itch with brewing various flavours of yeast inspired drinks! I found that the TSO was pumping out a lot of empty bottles, which were very useful in containing pressurised alcoholic liquids, so started collecting them and never looked back. (Neither has anyone else! - Ed).

Thank you to Caroline for conducting that interview. Be sure to keep an eye out for Ji Won and Caleb as they perform at our upcoming concerts!