Kangmin Justin Kim ’11 made history in 2019 by becoming the first male singer to play the role of Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro at London’s Royal Opera House. Before the pandemic hit, the Korean-American countertenor’s other recent engagements included his debut at Berlin’s Staatsoper Unter den Linden as Nerone in L’incoronazione di Poppea, Idelberto in a new production of Lotario in Bern, Idamante in a new staging of Idomeneo at Staatstheater Wiesbaden, and Megacle in Vivaldi’s L’Olimpiade with the Orchestra La Cetra under Andrea Marcon in Basel and Herne. OperaWire named Kim one of their Top 10 Rising Stars of 2019.

What made you choose the Bienen School of Music?

Having grown up in Palatine, Illinois, Northwestern University has always been the local “reach school.”  I knew about its Music Theater Certificate program as well as the 5-year dual degree programs, which attracted me the most.

Which professor influenced you most during your time at the Bienen School of Music?

My voice teacher Theresa Brancaccio, whom I call the "mother of my voice," is one of the most caring and nurturing educators I've ever met. She helped me transition from a tenor to a countertenor and taught me so many valuable lessons about vocal health that I apply to my everyday professional life.

Tell us about a particular experience that impacted you during your time at the Bienen School.

There was one concert in which I was singing in the choir and playing viola in the orchestra at the same time because Dr. Robert Harris and Dr. Bob Hasty were kind enough to let me be in both ensembles, even though they overlapped by 15 minutes every week. During the concert, I had to run up and down the stairs of Pick-Staiger between pieces, and while running I thought to myself, "Wow, I must really love music."  That's when I knew that I could do this for a living no matter how difficult it could be.

What lessons did you learn at Bienen that have continued to resonate with you in your career?

In choir, Dr. Robert Harris taught us some invaluable lessons:

1. In an ensemble, singers must listen more than they sing, and as musicians, we are almost always doing ensemble work.

2. Forte doesn't just mean loud and piano soft; forte singing is controlled singing, and piano singing is focused singing.

Top three of your Desert Island Discs (any genre)

Cecilia Bartoli's Sacraficium
Beyonce's 4
Mika's Life in Cartoon Motion

  • alumni
  • Theresa Brancaccio
  • Robert Hasty