ASU music professor lauded for virtuosic solo guitar works


Lynne MacDonald

In a year when performing artists’ careers are at a standstill, Ji Yeon Kim, who goes by Jiji, is finding ways to keep her creativity alive and her music moving forward into the future. An assistant professor of guitar in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre at ASU, Jiji was recently named to The Washington Post’s first-ever Class of 21 for '21: Composers and performers who sound like tomorrow. The article described Jiji as a mesmerizing performer who “represents an array of approaches, identities, experiences and exciting ways of imagining what our future together sounds like.”

Michael Broder of The Washington Post also recognized Jiji, the ASU Symphony Orchestra and its conductor Jeffery Meyer for a stirring performance of Hilary Purrington’s “Harp of Nerves,” which was specifically written for Jiji and orchestra.

“Michael contacted me to say he listened to some of my music for my new album and thought the album was a really cool project,” said Jiji. “He is very interested in contemporary classical music — new works, new composers, music of now and in the future — and heard about the project through some of my composers.”

Jiji’s new album, “Unbound,” features eight commissioned composers of virtuosic solo guitar works: Kate Moore (Australia/Netherlands), Pulitzer Prize finalist Michael Gilbertson (U.S.), João Luiz (Brazil), Krists Auznieks (Latvia), Hilary Purrington (U.S.), Natalie Dietterich (U.S.), Shelley Washington (U.S.) and Gulli Björnsson (Iceland).

Two of the pieces on the album, “Cor” by Auznieks and “Dynjandi” by Björnsson, are funded by an ASU and Herberger Institute Research – Building Investment grant.

Due to delays caused by the pandemic, Jiji is recording the final works for the album for an anticipated release in fall 2021.

As a preview to her album, she is premiering the new works by the eight composers, including a recent livestreamed concert that was part of the Kansas City Harriman-Jewell Series and a performance of an electric guitar concerto written by Auznieks that is scheduled for December 2021 with Sinfonietta Riga in Latvia.

“As part of my album, one of the most exciting things I am looking forward to is working with composer Krists Auznieks,” said Jiji. “His work is one of the most difficult pieces I've ever played.”

Jiji is involved in another project recording works composed by Justin Holland, a civil activist, musician and the first African American to publish classical guitar works in the United States, for a new series of recordings of music by Black composers spanning nearly 200 years. The series, Rising Sun Music, is funded by a grant from the Sphinx Organization, and is part of the Rising Sun Music initiative created by Laura Downes. The initiative also includes compositions by ASU Professor of Practice Daniel Bernard Roumain and the 2019 ASU Composition Commission Competition winner Carlos Simon

“After this very challenging time for artists not being able to perform and contribute to the arts as they normally would, it is so nice to see things being rescheduled now for 2022,” Jiji said.