For 3 musicians, it's do-re-mi, mi and miSome people are born to play music. Certainly, there seems to be something in the genes of the Kim sisters -- Jin-ah, Seon-ah and Min-ah -- identical triplets who all play traditional Korean music instruments.
Their environment didn't hurt, either. Their mother, Lee Jeong-sun, majored in vocal music and is a middle school music teacher. She started teaching her daughters piano, flute and clarinet when they were 5.
The three sisters continued to play these instruments throughout their childhoods, but the turning point came when the youngest, Kim Min-ah, had the chance to play the haegeum, a traditional one-stringed instrument, when she was in the fifth grade.
Min-ah, the youngest of the sisters, played the piano, but couldn't bring her instrument to her grandfather's house, which the sisters' visited from time to time to display their musical talent.
Hence, Kim Min-ah, who wanted to please her grandfather, was a little bit depressed, but then by chance she started to learn the haegeum.
In time, she felt it was more fun playing the haegeum than any other musical instrument. The very next year, after Min-ah had fallen in love with the mysterious world of traditional Korean music, and hearing from her how much joy she had found in that old instrument, the other sisters followed suit.
Kim Jin-ah started playing the gayageum, a 12-string instrument, while Kim Seon-ah chose to play the gomungo, a six-string version of the gayageum.
The three sisters have been attending the same schools since elementary days, and are currently seniors at the Sun Hwa Arts High School. On Nov. 18, 1974, Time magazine published a feature story on the Chung Trio, a Korean classical group. Since then, numerous other trios have appeared in the classical music world, but Korean traditional music has not yet been able to produce such a trio. The triplets plan on changing that and have been searching for a name to call themselves.
Kim Jeong-soo, the head of the youth orchestra of the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts, who has been conducting concerts with the triplets since their debut in September 2000, says, "They are still relatively young and there is much room for improvement, but all three sisters have solid skills and the talent to go far."
The prospect of becoming the first mother of a traditional Korean music trio seems to please Lee Jeong-sun as well.
"We have not made up our mind yet on a name for the trio," she says. "It's harder than we thought."
She adds that since the sisters have to study for their college entrance exams, there isn't as much time as they would like for public performances, but that will change once they get to college.
For the sisters, it seems that being a triplet has its disadvantages as well as advantages. For instance, when one receives a scolding, the other two get one as well, but overall the three agree that being a triplet is a good thing.
In a music ensemble, communication and coordination are the two most important factors. The sisters have those qualities, and thus a bright future seems certain.
Now if they could only find a name.
by Lee Jang-jik