Greetings one and all!
Here's a first for Eclectic Arts. There is a phenomenon going on where YouTube is being used as a launching pad for many amateur artists to show their talent, gain fans, and perhaps even launch a career. I happened upon a video of someone covering the Nightwish tune, "Dead Boy's Poem" and I was like whoa - who is this girl?
Some of the cover tunes I like better than others but you can definitely hear (and see) how talented this young artist is.
Those loyal readers of EA know that I support demo bands (remember demo TAPES?), those just starting out, etc. If I hear potential, then my curiosity gets piqued, and then I'm off to the races.
I'd like to introduce the EA world to Ms. Jennifer Kim. And right now is when the EA readers say, "who?" Who indeed - read on.
Jennifer is a talented singer, musician, and songwriter, among other things. She has been accepted to the Berklee School of Music this Fall (see crowd funding campaign at the end of the interview on how you can help).
This is her first interview conducted during July of 2014. If I'm any judge of talent, it won't be her last. ^_^
EA: Greetings Jenn! Let's start at the beginning. Where were you born? Raised? Currently reside? What were you like as a child growing up?
Jenn: Hi Mark! I was born in Maryland and I’ve pretty much spent my entire life there up to now. Although, the usual response to that statement is, “Where are you really from” - well, my mom is Thai, and my dad is Korean, so I guess you could say I’m half Thai and half Korean. I was a very mischievous kid, getting into all sorts of innocent trouble. I think that was due to my very curious and adventurous nature, always straying away from my parents when we were out, or venturing farther from our yard than was allowed.
EA: When did you get involved with music? What was your first instrument? Have you taken lessons for voice, piano, etc?
Jenn: It was when I was still pretty young when I started playing piano. My parents had signed me up for private lessons with Debbie Gerrity, who would turn out to be my piano teacher for the next 12 years. It was with her that I gained the majority of my musical knowledge. When I was 11, I started playing the viola at school, and continued to play through middle and high school, although I never took any lessons for it. During high school was when I was the most involved with music. I was in almost every music ensemble I could be in – the symphonic orchestra, marching band, the jazz ensemble – and I played in several different county orchestras and bands as well. As for voice lessons, I took classical singing lessons for about a month last summer, which helped me a little, but I think what makes me improve my singing the most is just constantly singing, recording, and listening to my own voice.
EA: Who are some of your early music influences (instrument, voice, etc)?
Jenn: While I was taking piano lessons growing up, I played a lot of classical music. My favorite pieces were by Rachmaninov and Beethoven, because I tended to like very powerful, dramatic, and emotional pieces. And although I didn’t play the music myself much, I think I was greatly influenced by video game music. Those songs that you hear while playing games when you’re younger stick with you even when you grow up. And it brings out a very special happiness from you. One of my favorite games, along with the music, when I was younger was PacMan World 2. I have so many good memories playing that game with my younger sister.
EA: How did all of this You Tube work start for you?
Jenn: I remember seeing a cover video for the first time (it was of a Nightwish song), and I just felt like doing one myself. And there you go – my first video on YouTube. It would be quite a while until I uploaded my next video, another Nightwish cover. And after that, I kind of forgot about my channel for a while. It was in the summer of 2011 that I received a message in my YouTube inbox from another YouTube musician, Joe Atlan (who’s now my boyfriend!), saying that he wanted to help me in improving my channel. At first, I took it as kind of a spam message, so I initially ignored it haha! But some months later, I finally replied, and we started talking on Facebook. Since the beginning, he’s been my greatest support, encouragement, and source of inspiration. Without him, I would’ve never continued to make more videos. It’s because of him that my channel has been continuing to grow through time, so everyone can thank him for that!
EA: For those old farts like me that are still fumbling our way through YouTube, what specifically did Joe do to help you improve your YouTube Channel? Help me understand this YouTube phenomenon better.
Jenn: Haha it’s not that complicated once you know what you’re doing. I had no idea about how to market my videos or make my videos better. He gave me advice on things like tagging videos, which is very important when trying to gain your audience. You have to think about what people will search for, and how you’re going to direct the intended audience to your videos. He also gave advice on things like titling videos, what songs to cover that would be more successful, popularity and view wise, and technical things like audio and lighting. He also made me my channel banner, which I’ve kept until this year.
EA: Some of your videos on YouTube are symphonic or progressive metal artists (Symphony X, Nightwish, etc). What draws you to those bands?
Jenn: The first of those bands that I fell in love with was Nightwish. Up till then, I had never heard any music like it. I thought the combination of the band’s instruments, orchestral sounds, and Tarja’s operatic vocals was so beautiful and unique. The other bands that I’ve covered on my channel, like Dream Theater, Symphony X, and Blind Guardian, were all introduced to be by Joe, who has the MOST amazing taste in music. But then again, when you really can feel and understand music, it’s not that hard to hear pure beauty and art. I think in the genre of progressive metal is where I hear the most creative and boundary-pushing elements. And that’s what I think is one very important aspect to creating good music, not being inhibited by anything, such as what “genre” of music you are making. Another thing that draws me to those bands is that you can just hear how they are deeply connected to and passionate about their music. The artist is very ingrained into his own art, so his motivations are very important, as they are reflected in the music.
EA: Has there been any cons to starting the YouTube page, uploading your videos, etc? (like criticism from family, stalker types, etc?
Jenn: I can’t really think of any negative things that have come from starting a YouTube channel. Of course, there will always be people who criticize your content, or just down-right insult you for no reason, but I think it’s a good thing to be able to not take those words too seriously, or let them bring you down. Seeing so many of those kinds of comments has made me stronger and more able to just ignore it and move on. I feel more sorry for those people because if that’s what they spend their free time doing, they must really not have anything else better to do. But the rest of the comments and feedback are so important to me. It lets me know I’m doing some things right, as well as where I should improve. The greatest thing about starting my channel of course was that it brought Joe to me, who is helping me be closer to my dreams and the person I want to be.
EA: What are your dreams and aspirations?
Jenn: I think in the most general words, my dream is to be able to create and share music that reaches people deep within, that makes them relate to what they’re hearing. I want to create music that I feel the most connected to, music that comes from the very depths of my soul. And of course, I want as many people as possible to be able to experience the music I create. I just want to try and be the best musician and composer that I can be and put my heart and soul into creating music.
EA: You're headed to Berklee to study music (congratulations by the way J ). What aspect of music will you be studying? What do you hope to accomplish at Berklee?
Jenn: Thank you so much! I’m so excited about it. I plan on studying Film Scoring there, and minoring in Video Game Music. At Berklee, I just want to take advantage of all the opportunities that I’ll have and all the amazing musicians I will get to meet and work with. Berklee is, in my opinion, the best music school in the world that truly prepares you for a career in the music industry. And I plan on treating my time there as if it was the real music world because the professors teaching there have experience working in the music industry, and the students going there with me will eventually be working as well, so networking and professionalism will be a priority.
EA: Do you have any favorite film composers?
Jenn: I think anyone who loves film soundtracks will say John Williams. He is an unbelievable composer, whose music is very diverse and unique. In the realm of video game music, I love Jeremy Soule’s work, particularly for some of the Elder Scrolls games. It just make the games’ atmosphere that much more magical. Of course I also really like Nobuo Uematsu, famous for his work with the Final Fantasy games.
EA: What do you want to do once you're finished with college at Berklee?
Jenn: I really want to write music for video games eventually. I think most people have experienced the magic of a video game, and how they can teleport you to another world. They make you experience something special, and they make you feel what a movie can make you feel, except it pushes it even further by adding a level of interactivity. And I think the music in a game is such an important element to that experience. It connects you to and expresses that world in a way that sticks with you long after you’ve stopped playing. Most people might not think of it this way, but video games are ART.
EA: For those readers that aren't gamers, can you describe how video games are art in your opinion?
Jenn: Well, what makes art? Art comes about from a creative force within the souls of humans brought out through their skills and capabilities. Video games contain elements of what most people would consider “art” – visual media and music. The people who make video games are dedicated to their work. Their sole aim is for the experience of the player. They put so much into the details that will enhance the expression of what they want in that game, through how the setting and landscapes are, how the character looks, how the character interacts, and of course, how the music plays into the game. A truly good video game can have a big impact on you, especially while you are experiencing it yourself. Maybe when people are younger, they can’t appreciate video games for everything they are, but as they get older, I think most realize the profound effect and beauty of them.
EA: So will you be working on the performance aspect of music (like playing live on stage, etc) or will you solely be focused on composing for video games? It seems like it would be a shame if we didn't get to hear more of Jenn the performer VS Jenn the video game music composer.
Jenn: Yeah, I’m definitely interested in developing as a performer, particularly, as a singer. If possible, I want to be able to take classes and lessons in singing at Berklee, just because I know that with the guidance of experienced professors and professionals, I can improve a lot more quickly and efficiently. Singing makes me feel something I don’t feel when I’m playing piano. There is a certain presence about being a singer, after all, that’s why singers are the “front men” of bands. They are the ones that connect the most with the audience and viewers. It’s also a position that could make you feel a bit more vulnerable than playing an instrument. It’s yourself that’s the instrument, and there’s nothing between you and the audience. But I think overcoming that vulnerability can feel quite exhilarating and freeing.
EA: So, where do you take your YouTube channel from here? Will you continue uploading videos once you're at Berklee or will the be put on hold?
Jenn: I definitely will continue uploading videos while I’m attending Berklee. If I study voice there, it’ll be another outlet where I can practice what I’m learning and document my progress, which my YouTube channel has been for me thus far. I would never consider stopping uploading videos. I feel almost as if it’s a small part-time job, a one that I love a lot, and feel very committed to. So yeah, you’ll be continuing to see videos from me : )
EA: Have you and Joe collaborated on a video that's on your YouTube Channel? What song would you like to collaborate on in the future?
Jenn: We have one song on my channel that we’ve done together (his own arrangement of Scarborough Fair), but on his channel, we’ve done quite a few together, such as covers of music from the Hobbit, Hearthstone (a Blizzard game), as well as his own original music. So far, we’ve mostly done more calm and serene music. I think I’d like to do something on a more epic and grand scale with him. Because I know what he’s capable of, I know it would be indeed very EPIC.
EA: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Jenn. The last words are for you.
Jenn: Thank YOU for your interesting in interviewing me. This is actually the first interview I’ve ever done related to music and my YouTube channel. It’s been a good chance for me to access myself, what I’ve done, and where I’m going. As an artist, I think there’s a lot more for me to improve on and to explore. Well, artists are on a perpetual path of improvement and exploration. Maybe all people in general. But I really feel I’m on the right path now and I’m excited for whatever the future holds for me. Thanks again, Mark!
Jennifer started a funding page to help her with the additional costs of attending a prestigious school like Berklee. Even after securing a major scholarship, she still needs help for certain gear the college requires, etc. Check out her page at:
Every donation received (broken down by $ amount) receives something in return (all listed in detail on the page). She is currently just over $500 on her way to her very reasonable goal of $2000. Let's help this talented musician get there!