Korean clarinetist Wonkak Kim has captivated audiences around the world with his “excellent breath control” (The Washington Post) and “exuberant musicianship” (Fanfare). Kim has appeared as a soloist and chamber musician at major venues throughout the United States, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. A Naxos Recording Artist, he has garnered international acclaim with his extensive discography: Gulfstream, a collection of new American chamber music, received many distinctions, including“Music US Choice” (BBC Music Magazine), “Recording of the Month” (MusicWeb International), and American Record Guide Critic’s Choice, and was praised for its “very highest quality” (Gramophone, UK). The International Clarinet Association Journal lauded Kim’s “sensitive playing, a lovely sound and consummate facility” in François Devienne: Clarinet Sonatas. On his most recent Naxos release of Stephen Krehl’s Clarinet Quintet, American Record Guide wrote: “Kim renders the Clarinet Quintet with a clear and nicely rounded timbre…with seamless blend and excellent legato.” Kim’s live and recorded performances have been featured on Radio France, BBC Radio 3, Swedish Radio, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, CJPX Radio Classique Québec, Hong Kong RTHK-HK, Korean Broadcasting System, and NPR stations around the United States.
Kim actively performs chamber music with many of the world’s leading artists and has appeared at festivals such as Astoria, BargeMusic, Chamber Music Northwest, ISCM Pan Music (South Korea), Norfolk, OK Mozart, Oregon Bach Festival, and Osaka (Japan). Constantly exploring the vast repertoires for clarinet and strings by composers ranging from Mozart to Zwilich, he has collaborated with dozens of today’s rising-star string quartets, including the Grammy-winning Attacca and Parker quartets. Kim is a founding member of enhakē, the clarinet-violin-cello-piano quartet, which is in its 12th season and has been praised for its “rock solid rhythmic integrity” as well as its “strength in balance, intonation, and musicality” (The New York Concert Review). With the group, Kim has toured throughout the world, most notably at Carnegie's Weill Recital Hall, Osaka’s Izumi Hall, Seoul Arts Center, International ClarinetFest, and the Promising Artists of the 21st Century Series in Costa Rica under the auspices of the US Department of State. His latest CD with enhakē entitled Prepárense: The Piazzolla Project on MSR has been described as “positively delightful…[t]he sense of ensemble is near-miraculous” (Fanfare) and received high praises from Gramophone: “The playing throughout is sublime…The intensity is real, the sounds gorgeous, the rhythm infectious…this version strides proudly alongside the legendary recording by Piazzolla himself.”
Kim was the first Korean clarinetist to perform Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto on basset clarinet in a nationally broadcasted concert with Seungnam Philharmonic Orchestra in South Korea. Since his debut with Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic in 2008, performing Carl Nielsen’s Clarinet Concerto (the performance that The Washington Post praised as a “winner”), Kim has consistently appeared as soloist with orchestras in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington D.C., as well as throughout South Korea and China. Among more than 50 new works that are dedicated to or commissioned/premiered by Kim are Libby Larsen’s Rodeo Queen of Heaven for Clarinet, Violin, Cello, and Piano (2010) at Carnegie Hall, Steve Landis’s Thronateeska Concerto (2015) with enhakē and Albany Symphony Orchestra, Peter Lieuwen’s Bright River for Clarinet and Piano (2014) at International ClarinetFest (Madrid, Spain), Hyunjung Ahn’s A Beautiful Polonaise for Clarinet and Piano (2018) at Clarimania (Wroclaw, Poland), Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s Abgang and Kaddish Quartet (2019, not a commissioned work) with enhakē, and David Crumb’s Nocturne for Clarinet and Piano (2021). Kim also presented the Korean Premiere of Paul Moravec’s Tempest Fantasy(2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner) with Mirus Trio at Seoul Arts Center’s IBK Hall followed by a repeat performance at NYC’s Weill Recital Hall with the composer in the house. Since 2019, Kim has dedicated much effort toward fostering intercultural collaborations with composers and performers from the worlds of both Korean traditional music and contemporary music. Kim commissioned over a dozen new works for clarinet by Korean composers and presented them at various international stages. Ongoing commissions include works by Juri Seo, Eunseon Yu, Caroline Kyunga Ahn, and Jiyoung Chung.
Kim is Associate Professor of Clarinet at the University of Oregon School of Music where he has been teaching since 2017. He has received numerous faculty awards, including the Presidential Fellowship in Humanistic Studies (2020). Prior to his appointment at UO, Kim served as Associate Professor of Clarinet at Tennessee Tech University (2012-2017). He is regularly invited as a guest artist and teacher at world’s renowned institutions such as the Juilliard School, Yale School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, and Korea National University of Arts. As a lecturer and speaker, Kim has been invited to over 150 conferences, seminars, and universities, including Harvard and Princeton, presenting wide-ranging topics in clarinet, musicianship, entrepreneurship, history, and culture. One of his recent lectures was included in the award-winning documentary called “Slow News” (2020), produced by the Milan-based IK Production. Kim is a College Music Society Ambassador to Korea and regularly invited as a guest professor in Korean universities and conservatories.
A native of South Korea, Kim grew up in Seoul and Paris and moved to the United States at the age of 15. The same year, he began studying clarinet with Kenneth Lee, a disciple of the legendary pedagogue Leon Russianoff. Kim subsequently attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a distinguished scholarship, where he studied clarinet with Donald Oehler and received degrees in Mathematics and Music. He continued his graduate studies with Dr. Frank Kowalsky, earning MM and DM degrees at Florida State University. In 2014, Kim was inducted into FSU’s Thirty Under 30 and became the College of Music’s sole recipient of Governor Reubin O’D. Askew Young Alumni Award, “the highest honor bestowed upon its young alumni” (FSU Alumni Association).
Kim is Buffet Crampon, Silverstein, and Vandoren Performing Artist and plays exclusively on Buffet Tosca Clarinet and Vandoren products. To learn more about Wonkak Kim, please visit his website: www.wonkakkim.com.
To learn more about Wonkak Kim, please visit his studio website.
Last Updated – 4 October 2022
At the request of the artist, please do not alter this biography without prior approval. Please destroy any previous biographical materials.
- DMA 2012, Florida State University
- MM 2009, Florida State University
- BMus and BA Mathematics 2007, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- 2021 UO Faculty Research Award
- 2020 UO Presidential Fellowship in Humanistic Studies
- 2019 UO College of Arts and Science Summer Stipend for Humanities and Creative Arts Faculty
- 2014 Governor Reubin O’D Askew Outstanding Young Alumni Award & Florida State University 30 Under Thirty
- 2010 The Presser Award
- 2009 First Prize Winner - Yellow Springs Chamber Music Competition
- Child’s Play: Chamber Music by Brahms, Glière, Edward Knight, Ravel, and SiHyun Uhm (MSR 1788)
- Gulfstream: American Chamber Music (Naxos 8.559692)
- Stephan Krehl Clarinet Quintet (Naxos 9.70173)
- Preparense: The Piazzolla Project (MSR 1592)
- François Devienne Clarinet Sonatas (Naxos 9.70150)
- Music of Peter Lieuwen: Chamber Music for Strings, Winds, and Piano (MSR 1581)
- Pendulum (Navona 5962)
- Legacy - Quartets for Clarinet, Violin, Cello and Piano (Emeritus 20103)