The Entrepreneurial Journey of an International Music Pioneer
The Hilton auditorium transformed into a rock concert venue on the evening of February 4th when LMU students, alumni, faculty and staff had the rare opportunity to see (and hear!) one of the top electric guitarists in the world perform. International music pioneer Se-Hwang Kim plugged in his electric guitar and played a few songs at this special event organized by the Center for Asian Business, Center for Entrepreneurship & LMU Department of Music.
Kim is considered an international music pioneer by creating a crossover between rock ‘n’ roll and classical music. He has released over 14 albums as a solo artist and as a member of Korean rock bands N.EX.T and Novasonic. Kim is also the first Asian to receive an Honorary Doctorate of Music in Performance from the Musicians Institute in Hollywood. He’s extremely grateful for all his success but admits none of it came easy.
“My entire life I’ve had to work twice as hard to prove myself and be respected,” said Kim.
Kim spent the first half hour talking about growing up in conservative Korea and the challenges he faced with his musical pursuits. At his mother’s influence, he started playing classical guitar at the age of four. His family moved to Washington, D.C. where a young Kim was exposed to American rock bands like Van Halen.
“I never grew up thinking I’d be a rock star,” said Kim. “I just knew I would be. It was so natural to me, like a part of everyday life.”
He returned to Korea in 1986 with dreams of bringing a different kind of sound back to his home country, but found barriers instead.
“No record label wanted me because I had long hair, jeans and a loud guitar,” said Kim. “They said my music would never be successful. I set out to change that.”
Kim finally debuted in 1991 as lead guitarist for Korean rock band, N.EX.T. The band went on to popularize the pop music genre in Korea. Though he loved rock music, Kim was yearning to return to his classical beginnings. He began touring with world-renowned orchestras such as the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the famous Italian chamber orchestra I Musici and gained international acclaim for his crossover talents. Kim has also worked with over 100 K-Pop artists.
His advice for aspiring musicians is to find a way to separate yourself from the competition.
“Breaking into the industry is all about grabbing people’s attention,” said Kim. “Media is changing by the day and seems to be getting more and more extreme.”
In other words, stay true to yourself and fight for what you believe.
“I definitely fulfilled my dream and I am very proud of what I’ve accomplished.”
Kim, Se-Hwang, "The Entrepreneurial Journey of an International Music Pioneer" (2015). Y.B. Min Lecture Series. 34.