When Kevin Kim gives back, people listen — literally. At just 24 years old, the classically trained pianist plays piano in the main lobby at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, creating a sense of calm for many people anxiously waiting news about a loved one.
People listening often smile or hum along; some close their eyes and many applaud. His music creates a soothing retreat and elicits a range of emotions. From classical masters, such as Debussy's "Clair de Lune," to Beethoven's "Für Elise," his repertoire is remarkable.
"I've always volunteered and enjoy helping people," Kevin says. "When someone says, 'Oh, I love this part,' because it comforts them, that makes me feel good because I'm helping people by sharing what I love."
Following the rhythm of a new beat
Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Kevin was drawn to music and began taking piano lessons at an early age. When he was 10 years old, he and his family came to the U.S. and settled in Scripps Ranch. A gifted musician, he graduated from the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts and attended the New England Conservatory of Music.
But when Kevin was close to finishing college, he began having doubts about pursuing a music career. That's when he sought advice from a friend who also had a music degree, but pursued a different path and became a pediatric surgeon.
"I shadowed her for a day and it had a huge impact on me. It opened my mind to the possibility of a career in medicine," he says. "I saw her helping people, making rounds, teaming up with other physicians, and I saw myself doing the same thing. There are many similarities between being a musician and a surgeon — the focus, the repetitive nature of movements and practicing until it is perfect."
Kevin decided to enroll in a few science classes at Northeastern University. After graduating from the conservatory with a degree in music composition in 2013, he returned to San Diego and took on additional science coursework at San Diego State University.
"I thought the best thing to do would be to volunteer at a hospital, and I applied here," he says. "But I was told by the volunteer services manager that the application cycle was full. Then she saw that I played piano, and we struck a deal. She said if I played the piano, I was in."
The best of both worlds: music and medicine
In addition to playing piano, Kevin volunteers in Sharp Grossmont's busy Surgical Intensive Care Unit. He gets hands-on clinical experience and has developed a deep appreciation for the clinicians who work alongside him.
"I've learned that it takes much maturity and emotional coping skills to be in medicine. The nurses and doctors work very hard, and they're good people," he says.
Kevin is now applying to medical schools around the country and pursuing his dream of becoming a surgeon. He plans to continue to give back through volunteering and playing the piano — music to our ears.