Virtuoso violinist passes along artistic and practical skills to Kennesaw State students

KENNESAW, Ga. | Feb 8, 2022

In 1981, a little girl in the Canadian city of Calgary was at home watching “Sesame Street” when she heard a sound that enchanted her. It was the great violinist Itzhak Perlman playing on screen.

Helen Kim

“I remember watching my parents’ big old TV, and I heard the most beautiful sound. I mean, I heard this sound, and I became obsessed,” said Helen Kim, now a professor of music at Kennesaw State University.

Still a toddler, Kim expressed her interest in Perlman and his seemingly magical instrument the best way she knew how – drawing him playing his violin.

When she understood that her daughter wanted to learn violin, Kim’s mother started her in lessons. She quickly revealed herself to be a prodigy, and by age 6, Kim performed with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. At 14, she studied under Perlman’s teacher, Dorothy DeLay, at the famed Juilliard School in New York. From there, Kim embarked on a professional career, earning international acclaim as a performer while also developing a reputation as an outstanding teacher.

Kim began working as an adjunct instructor at KSU in 2005 while a member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. The next year, a tenure track position for an assistant professor opened, and she earned the job.

Since then, Kim has watched the music department at KSU grow from the small space it occupied in 2005 into the Bobbie Bailey School of Music with the state-of-the-art Bailey Performance Center and space in the Wilson Annex.

Despite the growth of the school and the University overall, music students find a close community atmosphere, Kim said.

“Within a huge university, we have a conservatory-like feel in the school of music and as faculty, we always keep in touch about how different students are doing in different classes,” Kim said. “I feel like we share a common goal, which is to provide the best possible education and training for students’ success, whether they major in music performance or music education.”


Beyond technical mastery of violin, Kim said she and other faculty in the school of music pass along practical knowledge learned from years of performing and teaching. Like Kim, many of the faculty continue to perform professionally outside the University.

“Because we work so much — a lot of the faculty — students get to see what their job possibilities will be like and an honest portrait of what their life as musicians will be like,” Kim said.

– Gary Tanner
Photos by Judith Pishnery

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit