Four KISD Musicians Earn All-State Orchestra Status

Hanah Kim four-time All-State Orchestra honoreeWhen the best high school musicians in the state gather this week in San Antonio, the talented group will include four Harker Heights High School students among the All-State Orchestra.


Sophomores Alexander Kim and Rebekah Koh, and junior Wonkuk Lee join senior Hanah Kim, Killeen ISD’s first four-time All-State Orchestra honoree.


The four orchestra standouts join four Harker Heights choir students and two Chaparral High School choir students among KISD’s All-State selections at the upcoming Texas Music Educators Association convention.


In addition to the 10 individual students performing with top state ensembles, the Harker Heights High School Master Singers mixed choir earned an invitation to perform at the gathering of Texas music educators.


“It’s been a long journey,” said Hanah Kim. “Freshman me would not have expected this. Back then, All-State was a dream, then I made it and I kept making it.”


This year, she said she scaled back her practice time considerably because of a full schedule of dual credit classes and the task of applying to colleges. The eighth chair violinist in the state also happens to sit at the No. 1 position in the Harker Heights senior class.


That confidence, said Kim represents a major “character arc for me.”


As a freshman, she was the only All-State Orchestra representative from KISD. Last year, she was one of four. This year, she returns with Koh, along with first timer Lee and Alexander Kim, Hanah’s younger brother, a two-time All-State qualifier.


The sophomore Kim, a viola player, said he was surprised to make the All-State ensemble for the second time. He credited his sister for blazing a trail for him to follow.


Koh, also a sophomore, can relate. She’s the younger sister of Grace Koh, a three-time All-State violinist and Harker Heights High School valedictorian.


Rebekah Koh is blazing her own impressive trail. She made the top orchestra last year as a freshman and this year improved from 13th to seventh chair, so she’ll sit right next to her history-making classmate.

KISD orchestra perform at ExpoKISD orchestras performance





















“It’s such a surreal experience,” said Koh. “It’s a mix of emotions. I’m proud of myself and excited for the chance to learn and look up to others. It’s such a jump (in skill level).”


Performing consistently at such a high level takes hours of practice that wears on you mentally and physically. “Some days I don’t want to do it,” she said, “but it’s a hardship I enjoy. I don’t want to have regrets, so I drill hard every day.”


Lee, a viola player said he was surprised to make the All-State Orchestra. He played violin eight years before switching just nine months ago to the viola.


The larger instrument, he said, seems to match his personality better with its deeper, richer sound.


“I think it’s going to be fun playing with people at my level. I’m excited.”


For Kim, preparing for her fourth TMEA event brings back memories.


Gathering with the large, talented orchestra in the packed San Antonio ballroom takes the seasoned violinist back to the first time she played with a full orchestra.

All-State Orchestra HHHS


“It’s very surreal,” she said. “It takes me back to middle school. I almost cried because there were so many people and I had only played alone.”


Kim has played violin nine years and set a new standard of excellence in her community, but music is not her first love.


Her chief interest is the study of genetics. “I used to be purely STEM focused,” she said. “I really wasn’t interested in theoretical math as much as science, but I knew the violin created sound waves.”


She began to consider the tension she felt in her ears from the instruments playing around her and realized that music affects her and others physically. “When I play, I’m changing people’s brain chemistry,” she said with a satisfied smile.


A natural musician who plays by ear and is skilled at composing music knows that orchestra and music have changed her, enhanced her life, and allowed her to influence others.


“Oh, it’s amazing,” she said. “It’s altered my brain chemistry.”