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The Benefits of Studying Classical Music: meet Katherine Jim, Engineer & Senior Project Manager

The Benefits of Studying Classical Music: meet Katherine Jim, Engineer & Senior Project Manager featured image

Katherine Jin prefers to sit in front of the piano than the TV

I’m amazed by the overwhelming response to my asking this question: “If you studied classical music, did it positively affect your non-music career?” So many folks are still responding, wanting to sing the praises of music (see what I did there), not only in how music benefitted them career-wise, but in other aspects of their lives. Most of us who studied music though, as kids, resented the practise time and argued with our parents. And that’s the catch: sometimes parents want to give up the fight and allow their kids to quit. Understandable, but I hope they encourage their children to hang in there: the ingrates (as my dad called us three) WILL thank you later. Everyone I know whose parents agreed to stop music lessons all wished they weren’t allowed to quit.  (In my family, quitting was NOT an option; get your Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Music first – THEN we’ll talk.)

In this ongoing series, posted every week or so, I’ll be speaking with doctors, lawyers, marketing professionals, accountants, actors, arts administrators, and people in all kinds of fields who studied classical music and are thankful they did. I’ll keep this going until I run out of participants. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did. Today, let’s meet Katherine Jim, Engineer and Senior Project Manager.

Please summarize your current career, and your duties.
I work in a Canadian-based engineering consulting firm. It’s a publicly traded company, and globally, we have about 36,000 employees. I am a Senior Project Manager in the Transportation Planning department based in Oakville, Ontario. Most of my projects are related to road planning in the GTA. There are lots of growth happening in Ontario and we forecast 15-25 years into the future to identify infrastructure needs.

Okay, well, I’d like to see more safe bike lanes! Anyway – what instrument(s) did you study, and at what stage in your life?
Piano has always been my main instrument. I started when I was five and stopped taking lessons just before starting university. But along the way in elementary school and high school, I also learned the flute and the cello. So, I have a basic understanding of these instruments.

Were music lessons intended as a hobby or did you have a performing career in mind?
It was something my parents wanted me to do and it was always more like a hobby. I prefer just playing among friends, like a music salon (I just made it sound like I’m from the 18th century ….hahahaha…).

I love it! Nice throwback. Was quitting your music lessons a welcome relief or a complete heart-wrenching moment of reckoning?
At the time, it felt like a relief. I had wanted to quit sooner but my parents insisted that I must finish my Grade 10 exam. I’m very thankful that they did because that was a significant milestone and that allowed me to pick up piano again some 20 years later. I’ve been taking lessons again since about 4 years ago. I completed my ARCT (Performance) exam last year and now working on the theory requirements. Let me tell you, having to study in your 40’s is not quite the same as when you were a teenager. Fortunately, I’ve got wonderful teachers for piano and theory.

Good for you! I wasn’t allowed to take the next piano exam until I had the theory squared away – my mother (who was also my theory teacher) was super organized that way. How did your classical music studies (and music theory, if you studied that too) impact your ability to do your job today?
Music taught me a lot of things and they apply to all aspects of my life: a high level of self discipline, organization, time management, and setting long-term goals and milestone checkpoints. My day-to-day work is mostly project management, so these skills are essential to running a successful project. But in general, I think it’s the “never stop learning” mentality that keeps me going. In music, there is always “the next level” and I don’t mean just technically but also musically and how, as a performer, the way you connect with the audience.

Is classical or music in general (playing, listening, attending concerts, getting your kids to practise) a part of your life today? If not, do you think you’ll return to it?
Definitely! First of all, daily practise is a must. My mom teases me that I practice more now (and more diligently) than when I was a kid. Not just because I’m paying for my own lessons now, but I see music as a way to take a break from the “day to day”. I am also the “designated accompanist” for my husband, who plays the trumpet as a hobby. We both practise every evening (which means we are totally not up to date with current TV programs). We are lucky to be in Toronto where we have access to many great concerts and performances. We love going to live performances; I always feel refreshed after a great concert. We also like to plan our vacations around concerts and music festivals; just last year, we were at the Salzburg Music Festival and there are so many places we have yet to explore.


Want to share your experience how studying classical music shaped your life and career?
[email protected]

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