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School of Music professor to honor iconic composer Debussy in Carnegie Hall

Dr. Woori Kim Smith, assistant professor of piano for the Liberty University School of Music, will honor the legacy of renowned French composer Claude Debussy with a concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City tonight, Monday, March 12. It will be the first full concert by a Liberty School of Music faculty member in the prestigious venue.

“We are so proud of and congratulate Dr. Woori Kim Smith for this incredible achievement,” said Dr. Vernon M. Whaley, dean of the School of Music. “Dr. Kim Smith is one of the finest and most proficient young pianists in America. The School of Music is blessed to have musicians of this caliber on faculty who actively provide instruction for our students.”

Kim Smith will present “Debussy en Premiere,” performing all major works from the composer’s first collection of volumes, including six Études, 12 Préludes, and three Images, as well as the world premiere of a new composition, “Hommage à Debussy,” written by Kim’s friend Yea-Kyung Chung and inspired by Debussy’s work.

“I am happy to be able to present this all-Debussy program in New York,” Kim Smith said.

The event is part of a series of concerts Kim Smith is presenting to memorialize Debussy during the centennial of his death (March 25, 1918). She has already performed in Georgia, as well as at a faculty concert in Liberty’s Center for Music and the Worship Arts earlier this month. In addition to solo work, she and her husband, Dr. Curtis Ryan Smith, who also teaches piano at Liberty, have been presenting piano duo pieces at these events.

The Liberty community will have a chance to experience Debussy’s works when Kim Smith’s students present a concert on March 28 in the Oldham Recital Hall at 7:30 p.m. Kim Smith and her husband will also perform. (See the School of Music events calendar for more information.)

Kim Smith — who holds a Doctor of Musical Arts and Artist Diploma from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, a Master of Music and Performer’s Diploma from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, and a Bachelor of Music from Seoul National University — has been fascinated with Debussy’s works since she was a child and learned that the two share a birthday (Aug. 22).

A native of South Korea, Kim Smith grew as an artist, becoming intrigued by the turn-of-the-century composer’s eastern influences.

“He is the composer who used pentatonic (five-note scale) orientalism in music in the most beautiful way to me,” she said, noting Debussy never travelled to the East. “How does he know this Asian color and atmosphere (I wondered)? It encouraged me, to hear this universal language of music.”

As a graduate student, Kim Smith lectured on Debussy’s Études — the subject of her doctoral dissertation — and focused on his works for two of her doctoral recitals.

“I studied his literature really intensely,” Kim Smith said.

Kim Smith has taught at Liberty for the past four years. She loves her students and enjoys seeing each one grow in their own unique gifts and influences (though she admits it brings her joy when they show a fondness for Debussy’s work). She expresses her gratitude to the university for the facilities and institutional support that School of Music faculty are provided, noting Liberty’s special commitment as an All-Steinway School to use only the highest-quality pianos in the world, which are essential to properly convey the intricacies of the composer’s music.

“This quality matters — the sensitive touch and hammer,” she said. “It is all about nuance. If you have a low-quality piano, you cannot create that magic. I am so thankful.”

Kim Smith takes the stage in Carnegie at 8 p.m.

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