Interview: ICMP alumna and Accelerator Fund act Grace Kim

Our MMus alumna tells us how our MMus programme helped her find a band and launch her music industry career...
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As an alumna of our Masters in Popular Music Performance, singer, songwriter and now band leader Grace Kim has come a long way since she first joined us. 

Studying the programme not only helped Grace hone her musical talents but also led to her finding the various members of her band, The Skittles, who are all fellow alumni from the course. 

Grace also benefitted from support from our Careers and Industry Hub and is one of the artists to receive backing from the team's Accelerator Fund. To find out more, we caught up with Grace to learn how she pieced her band together, what she has lined up next for her music and why she believes collaboration is key for emerging talent... 

You studied the MMus course at ICMP - how did you find the programme? And how did it help you and your music career?

ICMP's MMus course was very comprehensive. Even though I studied as a vocalist, I dealt with music and musicianship and went far further than just a specific instrumental skill. I enjoyed plenty of collaborative opportunities. My current musical output would have sounded very different if it hadn't been for the course and the people I met at ICMP.

What were the best things about the course?

Everyone from our class 2017-18 would agree that, alongside the teaching, one of the most valuable things we got from the course were the colleagues we met.

Just gathering the brilliant technical, creative, and hard-working people in one place and getting them to come together musically was the beginning of something amazing."

Could you talk about your band, the Skittles? How did you get together?

Grace Kim & The Skittles features seven MMus graduates from ICMP. It began as my recital band for the first term. We found it so much fun to play music together and we started to gig. It's led to some great things including performing at the Jazz In the Park Competition in Romania.

When I gathered my band, all I looked for was hard-working people from different musical backgrounds. Drummer Daniel Said is from a very technical background in progressive rock, Andre Jack is straight gospel/jazz bassist. The two guitarists, Joe and David, are from two different genres - Irish folk and blues. In addition to a soul singer Donavon, and Athena whose project has roots in ambient music. This mixture of background sounds interesting. Not only genres, but we have a diverse range of ethnic backgrounds too. To show that visually as well, each of us wear an allocated colour so the band looks like a rainbow on stage.

How important were the networking/collaborating opportunities at ICMP in helping you?

Obviously it was helpful taking part in networking events which all students can attend. Collaborating was also very helpful in my case. Students from various countries and history have different stories. I think that is what higher education institutions should be: collaboration centres. 

You also received support from the Accelerator Fund? How did this help you? And how did you find the support from the team in the Hub?

I went to the Hub when I needed some advice and it was definitely great to talk with them. It's easy to get lost in the music business otherwise. The funding was really important as it helped us record our first song. The Skittles and I are very excited about releasing this.

What's the best piece of advice you've received about making music?

I don’t remember who told me but it was “Think about who is listening to the music and their life style.” Music is a language to communicate. And I want to know more about the other participants in this communication, my listeners. When I think about them while making my music, I feel that I’m actually forming my music. I know I am going somewhere very concrete with whatever it is I'm writing.

What kind of strategies/approaches have you used to build your fan base?

I focus on the live gigs and social medias. But the gigs always comes first. With my former band (the Grace Kim Band), I never gigged too often as I didn’t want my fans to be bored or too busy. I’d like my gigs to be a precious and special event for the audience. After each gig I always go around the venue and meet people in person. That’s when I hear feedbacks, meet fans and industry people. I remember the faces of a few regulars.

To get a hundred of fans can be difficult so I aim to win over a few 'superfans' at a time by engaging with them personally. They will hopefully upload and share my music online. Then, I gladly and gratefully share their posts. That’s the kind of social media I enjoy." 

What is next for your music project?

Due to the geographic issue - I live abroad - the band is getting a break from gigging but we've got plenty of track releases and videos we want to share. Subscribe to Grace Kim Music on YouTube and Facebook to stay tuned. 

Watch the tour video of the band's recent trip to Romania below:  

Study a Postgraduate Course in Music Performance

If you'd like to sharpen your musical skills and change the way you think about yourself and your music, then our MMus Popular Music Performance Masters programme could be for you. Speak to our friendly Admissions Team who are on hand to help you on your way to your professional destination. Call them on 020 7328 0222 or email at enquiries@icmp.ac.uk

Masters in Music Performance Course

by Jim Ottewill
July 2, 2019
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