Warm jazz tones filled the BYU–Hawaii Little Theatre as Gahee Kim, a senior from Korea majoring in music, sang classic jazz pieces for her senior voice recital on Dec. 6. Kim explained she hopes to change how others see the genre of jazz.
“People think jazz is boring, but it is not,” said Kim. “People just listen to old generations. If someone could change the jazz genre, it could be more popular. That is what I am trying to do.”
To Kim, one way to change the perception of jazz was to focus her recital around it. Her program was titled, “Thrilling Night of Jazz.” She featured a traditional jazz band with pianist Jennifer Duerden, bass player Ninoy Kusuma, drummer Kris Krisanalome, and guitarist Byung Sun Park.
Kim said she started singing at age 13. Her father liked to sing, and her parents would go to karaoke night singing Korean songs. At first, Kim explained she mainly focused her singing on pop tunes like Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, and Adele, but that changed when she began studying music in Korea.
She began to study jazz and learned to love it. “Jazz is chilling music. Usually, I’m stressed when I listen to EDM [electronic dance music].”
After graduating from BYUH, Kim said she still wants to pursue her love of music and jazz. She said, “I would like to perform for 10,000 people.”
Kim continued and said she aspires to attend Berkeley Music College in California for graduate school.
Kim’s vocal jazz teacher, Daniel Henderson, an assistant music professor, told the audience at the recital that Kim is a remarkable student and singer. “I had the pleasure of teaching Gahee jazz voice for the past two and a half years.
“It has been a true pleasure to work with Gahee. Not only has she been an extremely pleasant and cheerful person to work with, but she also has talent. She is a great singer and is accompanied by a great band.”
Continuing, Henderson told the audience it is not often you hear traditional jazz on the BYUH campus. He explained jazz is not like regular recitals. “You might be used to going to classical recitals. It is different in the world of jazz. You get to sing and shout, especially in the middle of the song. That’s the way jazz works. If something on stage is happening that you really like, you shout.”
Kim, during her recital, brought Henderson to the stage to thank him. She said, “Whenever I was not confident and struggling, Dr. Henderson helped me find a way to get past those feelings. He encouraged me to keep learning about jazz.”
Throughout the night, Kim sang “It Don’t Mean a Thing” by Duke Ellington and “L-O-V-E” by Bert Kaempfert. In some songs like, “Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps” by Osvaldo Farrés, Kim performed her own choreography to the songs.
Regarding a song by Gerald Marks and Sarah Vaughan titled “All of Me,” Kim explained she had a deep meaning expanding past the lyrics and musical composition of the song. “‘All of me’ was the first song I practiced with Henderson. It influenced my style. It is really meaningful to me.”
Jalen Quibilan, a freshman from Arizona majoring in exercise sports science and minoring in music, came to Kim’s jazz voice recital, and said she was drawn to the concert because of the emphasis on jazz music.
“I have a background in music, and I am open to all genres. It is so interesting to me how music spans across different fields. Coming to this jazz performance [was] really rewarding."
Quibilan admitted this was one of the only formal jazz concerts she had ever attended. But after seeing Kim perform, she said she wants to learn more about jazz.
“I am not sure what minor I want to have in music,” explained Quibilan. “These concerts are helping me decide what type of music minor I want.”
Overall, Quibilan said she was most impressed with how versatile Kim was. Her favorite song performed that night was “Autumn Leaves” by Joseph Kosma, because she was impressed by Kim's vocal range.
“There were some notes in ‘Autumn Leaves’ that were really low. In a choir, those notes would be for the bass and baritone singers. I have tried singing those notes, and they are hard to hit, especially for a girl. She was able to hit those low notes well and even high notes too. That shows the level of talent she has.”