8Questions With Kevin Bobo, Associate Professor of Music (Percussion) of Indiana University Bloomington

In the seeming cultural wasteland of the Midwest there are pockets around the University centers that have some surprisingly compelling and active communities. In Bloomington, IN, which is where we live right now, we’ve discovered a huge community of musicians (because of the incredible music school), and recently met associate professor of music,┬áKevin Bobo, a Korean American (he writes, “half Korean with a cup of Buckeye and a dash of Bordeaux”). Okay, it helps that he and his family are members of my husband’s church.

After hearing so many wonderful things about him, and listening to his albums, I felt I had a great opportunity to interview him:

Who are your musical influences for your work?

Certainly my parents (both parents). My dad used to practice with my brother and I every single day when we started out on the violin. This built a solid foundation to build on. Some of my other influences would be Gordon Stout (Marimba), Leigh Howard Stevens (Marimba), Vladimir Horowitz (Piano) and Itzhak Perlman (Violin) for performance. Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Walter Mays and Igor Stravinsky for composition.

What was the first instrument you learned and when?

Violin from age 4 (1978ish) to age 12.

Did you ever have any desire to to pursue the stereotypical Asian/Korean occupation of engineering/medicine?

No, even though there are many doctors on my mother’s side. Grandfather, uncle and my brother are all MD’s. I don’t think I ever had the brains for those fields.

What are you favorite bands and musicians?

See list of performers above for soloists. Also, James Brown, “the hardest working man in show business!” My favorite bands are “Squirrel Nut Zippers” and “The Doors.”

Did you face any struggles or barriers as you pursued this field?

Plenty, it took me four years and 30 rejection letters to finally land a job! I freelanced in Wichita, KS for four years and took adjunct jobs at schools that were literally five hours from my home. Lots of driving!!!

Any advice for future musicians?

Practice very hard while you are a student. Once real life starts, there is no more time and every one who did practice relentless hours as students will be so far ahead of you in skill that you will likely never catch up. Also, take every gig seriously. You never know who is listening. My first CD was a result of a gentleman hearing me play marimba in a bar in Wichita, KS. Also, do what you can to stay in the business after your education. You may not land your dream job right away, but there are ways that you can find to make a living as a musician, you just have to a be little inventive at times.

More information can be found on his Indiana University faculty page.

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About Mihee

Mihee lives in the Mid-West with her husband, toddler-aged twins (yes, terrible twos is actually a thing), and baby #3. Though her reserve of brain cells is seriously depleted she is still passionate about Asian American culture, religion and social justice for marginalized people, stories about Korea, sports, and power naps. During the day, she spends a lot of time trying to remember which baby needs to eat or get a diaper change, mentoring and ministering to college students, occasionally taking a walk, writing, watching Sportscenter, or grabbing coffee. You can read her blog here.
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