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Classical 101

Friendship and joy: VIVO Music Festival Season 9

Violinists Robin Scott and Siwoo Kim playing their violins in WOSU's Performance Studio
Jennifer Hambrick
Violinists Robin Scott and Siwoo Kim perform Wieniawski's Etude-Caprice No. 4 in WOSU's Performance Studio

The world-class performances of Columbus’ VIVO Music Festival draw audiences from throughout the city to venues of every stripe. But despite the powerful music and the passionate playing, those concerts would be nothing without two special ingredients.

As the VIVO Music Festival’s ninth season unfolds through this Saturday, Sept. 9, friendship and the joy of sharing music with the Columbus community remain the most important things for the festival’s musicians.

Launched in 2015, the VIVO Music Festival was born of the longtime friendship of co-artistic directors Siwoo Kim, a violinist based in New York City, and Paris-based violist John Stulz, who both grew up in the Columbus area. After completing their conservatory training, Kim and Stulz met up again as members of Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble Connect, a fellowship program that fosters advocacy, education and community engagement among musicians beginning their professional careers.

“We thought, why don’t we bring what we learned there to Columbus, where we can share what our parents helped us achieve with the community that nurtured and raised us?” Kim said.

For nine seasons Kim, Stulz and other musicians from Columbus and beyond have reunited in Columbus to perform a week’s worth of concerts at venues across town – all for the joy of making music. This year, harpist and Findlay native Bridget Kibbey returns to VIVO to perform with Kim, Stulz and Columbus Symphony Orchestra Principal Second Violinist Alicia Hui.

Joining the Ohio musicians in this year’s festival are cellist Alice Yoo, percussionist Victor Caccese, founder of the Brooklyn-based ensemble Sandbox Percussion and violinist Robin Scott, associate professor of violin at the Eastman School of Music.

Scott, an Indiana native, and Kim’s friendship epitomizes the VIVO spirit of joyful music making. The two met nearly 15 years ago when competing in the Irving M. Klein International String Competition in San Francisco. They struck up an instant friendship amid the anxiety of the competition.

“I was a 16-year-old Westerville South High School student and flew over to San Francisco for this big competition, and I was pretty nervous,” said Kim, a self-described violin nerd. “And Robin was a fellow Midwesterner who was equally a violin nerd and super nice. So I felt much more at ease.”

Their “nerdiness,” they say, remains the basis of their friendship.

“As we’ve aged, we’ve become nerdier and nerdier – in a good way,” Kim says.

When Scott performs in New York City, he often stays with Kim. The two watch videos of performances by great violin soloists, compare notes and try out violin techniques together on their own instruments.

“We’re always talking shop together,” Scott said.

And if they had things their way, Scott, Kim and the other VIVO Festival musicians might always be playing together.

“I think we often lament the fact that we don’t get to play with each other more,” Scott said. “The chance to share amazing music with close friends – that’s a really wonderful thing.”

The VIVO Music Festival runs through Saturday, Sept. 9, with performances at venues around Columbus.

Jennifer Hambrick unites her extensive backgrounds in the arts and media and her deep roots in Columbus to bring inspiring music to central Ohio as Classical 101’s midday host. Jennifer performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before earning a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.