TTU Class of 2016!

I am extremely proud of my first full graduating class at Tech who walked at the ceremony today! They have set such high standards both musically and academically for the clarinet studio, and I look forward following up with their bright future!

Congratulations to the following four students!

  • Michaela Cundari (summa cum laude) will pursue Masters of Music at Middle TN State University on a full assistantship and recently enlisted as a clarinetist of the Air National Guard Band of the South
  • Sarah McMichen (summa cum laude, 4.0 in cursu honorum) will pursue Masters of Music at Michigan State University where she is a recipient of a large scholarship
  • Delaney Naffziger (summa cum laude) will pursue professional teaching opportunities in Nashville Metropolitan Area public school system
  • Anjali Sivaainkaran (summa cum laude, cursu honorum) will pursue Masters of Music at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a recipient of the second year assistantship

Harlaxton Music Festival, UK


The Harlaxton Manor

From July 1-3, I visited the Harlaxton Music Festival in its inagural year (launched by my colleagues from the Larchmere String Quartet), where three of my students from TTU were the chamber music participants. It was a real pleasure to reside in this amazing castle, coaching some hard-working students and playing music with them, too!  

Harlaxton gardens

The atrium on the rear side of the Manor

Coaching my student Anjali's Stamitz group

The cocnert venue at the Harlaxton Manor

My student Sarah working on Mozart's Clarinet Quintet

Sarah performing Mozart Clarinet Quintet

On Thursday evening, I also performed the charming "Clarinet Quartet, No. 1" by the American clarinetist and composer Sean Osborn with my students at the St. Wulfram's Church. After the concert, we all went out to a local pub in downtown Grantham! 

St. Wulfram's Church

My student Torey performing Mendelssohn's Concert Piece at the St. Wulfram's Church

Selfie with my students before the evening concert! 

Downtown Grantham

Post-concert celebration! 

All three of my students visited me in London after the Festival, and I took them out to a gastropub near the Covent Garden where we all had some great pies and ale! 

with TTU clarinet students at a gastropub near the Covent Garden

TECHnovations Interview

My recent hour-long interview with Penny Brooks for WTTU 88.5FM's TECHnocations is scheduled to air today at 11am. I enjoyed talking to Penny about my teaching, research (creative works), and music entrepreneurship. 

You can also listen to or download the podcast here: (Episode 13: Dr. Wonkak Kim, assistant professor of clarinet in the College of Education, discusses his scholarly work as a soloist and member of chamber groups, including one in which he is co-founder, enhake. Two musical works are featured, one a solo work and one performed by enhake.) 

A Little Joy as A Young Teacher

I was one proud teacher listening to my student Sarah's Junior Recital last Sunday. She played a difficult program with great control, finesse, and most of all, understanding of the music. The program included Schumann's Fantasiestüke, Debussy Premiere Rhapsody, Stravinsky Three Pieces, and Malcolm Arnold's Clarinet Concerto No. 2 (with Martin Fröst's highly demanding cadenza which Sarah played from memory). First three belong to my signature repertoire, and I worked on them with her in great details. It was also an adventure exploring Arnold's rather underperformed concerto together and see my student giving it a her own distinct personality. While there were plenty of rooms for improvement, I could see very well that she clearly understood what this (playing the music) is all about. 

Since her arrival at Tech two and a half years ago, Sarah has made an impressive progress. Among other things, she performed Weber's Concertino with Maryville Orchestra as a winner of the Maryville College Concerto Competition, named twice Tennessee winner of MTNA Young Artist Woodwind Competition (1st place in 2013 and 2nd place in 2014), and participated in summer workshops such as ARIA and Oklahoma Clarinet Symposium, playing for renowned clarinetists, including David Shifrin, etc. 

I find the greatest joy as a teacher when others tell me that they hear and see my own playing from my students' performances. Assuming that I am doing something right, this can be a great compliment. As I was listening to the recital, I was quite taken by her control of dynamic, attention to the legato and phrasing, and relevant musical gestures, things that I cherish the most in my own playing.

I am only too happy to help my students to discover their places in this world by sharing with them my knowledge, passion, and beliefs. 


David Shifrin Recital at the Blair School of Music

TTU Clarinet Students with David Shifrin

It is a great pleasure to see my students are becoming increasingly interested in taking advantage of various musical opportunities around them. Last night, they organized and drove themselves to the Blair School of Music in Nashville to attend a recital by Mr. Shifrin while I was in Tech Rehearsal for the upcoming "Halloween" Concert by our faculty quintet. I am very excited that my students got to experience what I was fortunate to do during my student years.  

Krehl Clarinet Quintet with LSQ in TN

A few weeks ago, I was very fortunate to host and accompany the Larchmere String Quartet, currently quartet-in-residence at the University of Evansville, IN, in their concert tour in Tennessee. Back in September, we started working on the very little known Clarinet Quintet (1902) by Stephan Krehl (1864-1924). The week I spent with LSQ gave us more time to learn the piece well enough to give some of our first public performances together.

Soon after LSQ arrived at my home in Cookeville (and finished many bottles of wine), we headed to Harrogate, a tri-state town located in northeast Tennessee. We spent a whole day there still refreshing our vague memories (if we had any) of the music and getting ready to perform Krehl for the first time that evening at Lincoln Memorial University. After the LSQ gave a fantastic performance of quartets by Haydn and Brahms, we gave our TN premiere of Krehl's Quintet. Besides being surprised at various surprising tempo changes and harmonic surprises (lots of surprises), we all agreed that the piece has some really beautiful moments and great potential. 

After our first concert at Lincoln Memorial University

Harrogate has some beautiful scenery.

LSQ is busy getting their food before it's all gone.

The next day was spent in Nashville where we made a stop at WPLN (Nashville NPR Affiliate) Studio to play for a live interview and broadcast for their Classical 90.1. LSQ gave another very exciting performance of the first movement from Brahms String Quartet, Op. 51/1, and we played the Lento movement from Krehl's Quintet. 

At WPLN Studio C, Nashville, TN

Our final concert together in TN was scheduled at Tennessee Tech University where I teach. The LSQ gave their Center Stage Presentation in the morning, pouring a great deal of insights and inspiration for our music students. We had a relaxing afternoon strolling around the downtown Cookeville. The turnout for our evening Center Stage Recital was terrific, and I tremendously enjoyed playing Krehl again with the LSQ. I truly appreciate the LSQ's courage and willingness to work with me in giving a new life to this rather obscure work. I truly look forward to our number of upcoming performances together as well as a recording session for Naxos, featuring the quintet and Krehl only string quartet. Please stay tuned for our exciting upcoming projects!

LSQ in Cookeville

QEP Excellence Award in Innovative Instruction

with TTU Provost Ghorashi 

I am very honored to be a recipient of the QEP Excellence Award for Innovative Instruction for my project during 2013-14. I first came across the QEP during my first year at Tennessee Tech when I attended the new faculty orientation. This program was implemented in early 2000s by TN Board of Regents and provides a significant amount of funding to encourage innovative instructional projects. The goal is to help students cultivate critical thinking, real-world problem solving, and communication skills. I have received funding from QEP for the past three consecutive years (over $10,000) that made several dream projects come into reality. Here are some examples, and you can read more about them here:

  • "Cultivating Musical Entrepreneurship through Chamber Music Ensembles"
  • "Reed-Making Workshop"
  • "How to Develop and Maintain Successful Private Studios" (to be implemented during 2014-15)

My foremost goal as a teacher is to help students develop the highest standards of musicianship and proficiency. But I also strongly believe that we need to do more:

  • Providing opportunities and seed projects for students to become self-driven 
  • Teaching all aspects of music entrepreneurship, including programming, publicity, fund-raising, soliciting, development, etc.
  • Giving students exposure to all available resources, technology, and cutting-edge ideas
  • Helping students develop specific goals for the next decade and long-term vision for the future
  • Instilling a sense of responsibility and vocation for their lives as musicians, educators, and entrepreneurs
  • Helping them to build their professional network early on 
  • The list is endless and is keep growing...

I feel very fortunate that my own teachers showed me many great examples back in school. I hope I can do the same. There are many challenges ahead for students pursuing musical career, but I am also genuinely excited for the tremendous opportunities awaiting them. 

Who doesn't like being given a plaque (and a $1,000 cash incentive)?

A student to be featured as a soloist with Maryville Orchestra

Here is an article from The Greenville Sun published on February 23, 2013 about my student Sarah McMichen on her recent win at the Maryville College Concerto Competition. Sarah was featured as a soloist with the orchestra performing Weber's Concertino.

Sarah McMichen Featured Soloist In March 4 Concert

MARYVILLE - The Orchestra of Maryville College will present a "Showcase of Area Artists" on March 4, with Greeneville's Sarah McMichen to be one of eight soloists.

McMichen will perform Concertino for Clarinet in E flat Major, op. 26 by Carl Maria von Weber.

McMichen is the daughter of John McMichen and Cynthia Tannert and is a freshman at Tennessee Technological University, where she is studying clarinet under Dr. Wonkak Kim.

Previously, McMichen studied under Randall Misamore.

She is a member of the TTU Clarinet Society, the TTU Wind Ensemble, the TTU Marching Band and the TTU Clarinet Quartet.

She previously was a member of the Knoxville Youth Jazz Orchestra, the Symphony of the Mountains Youth Orchestra and the East Tennessee Youth Wind Ensemble.

In 2012, she attended the Interlochen Center for the Arts, and she participated in the Tennessee All-State Jazz Band and TTU Festival of Winds and Percussion.

In 2011, she attended the Governor's School for the Arts. She participated in the Tennessee All-State Concert Band in 2010 and 2011.

Conductor Bill Robinson will lead the orchestra in a performance of concerto works at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 4, in the Ronald and Lynda Nutt Theatre of the Clayton Center for the Arts on the college campus.

The annual Showcase of Area Artists provides a performance opportunity for talented area musicians and features a wide variety of musical styles and instruments.

Artists are selected by a panel of judges during auditions held each December.

A college and community ensemble, the Orchestra at Maryville College brings live symphonic performances to the public stage four times per season.

"The Showcase Concert is the high water mark of what the college orchestra is all about," Robinson said in a press release. "We give young, extremely talented students the rare opportunity to perform as soloists with full symphonic accompaniment. It is the perfect blend of our educational mission, as well as our role of bringing live classical music to our community."

Tickets are available at the Clayton Center Box Office and are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors (age 60 and older) and $5 for non-MC students. Tickets are free to MC faculty, staff and students with ID (although a printed ticket is required for admission).

For more information, contact the Division of Fine Arts at (865) 981-8150.