Student joins Korean Red Cross Youth Orchestra

Story by Nikhil Dattatreya ’23 and Aaron Liu ’23 
Photos courtesy Brandon Kim ’25

Originally published in the Sept. 2022 issue of The ReMarker 

For many students at school, community service is a requirement to be met. Get five hours done this quarter, and make sure you have time to get them done before the deadline. 

For most, finding community service opportunities outside our local bubble can be difficult in the first place, much less dealing with cultural differences and language barriers. 

This past summer, however, Brandon Kim ’25 found an opportunity to serve a community far from home — in a completely different country, halfway across the world. With his viola playing skills, honed from six years of practice, Kim was able to contribute to humanitarian relief and service efforts both in Ukraine and Korea through music. 

Kim first started playing the viola in fifth grade, and his musical journey continued after coming to the School and joining orchestra.  

“Before St. Mark's, I played in my school orchestra at Metairie Park Country Day School in Louisiana, and I have been playing the viola for about six years now," Kim said. "I joined the St. Mark’s orchestra when I first attended St. Mark's in 7th grade, and I have been a part of it ever since.” 

Kim started volunteering with the Red Cross after receiving an invitation from a friend to help Red Cross service efforts unique to the Korean branch. 

“The whole program is part of the Korean Red Cross Youth Orchestra,” Kim said. “I heard about it from my friend last year, and we went to volunteer together. We’ve been volunteering ever since. The volunteering was directly through the Korean Red Cross — they have several branches within, and I was volunteering for the Korean Red Cross Youth Orchestra.” 

String performances for charitable purposes aren't new, and opportunities to play at retirement homes and other service events are commonplace for musicians of all ages. On the other hand, Kim was able to perform in front of a variety of unique audiences due to the nature of the program. 

“Sometimes we perform at big centers,” Kim said, “but other times we perform just for small audiences, and they would take donations. We can also perform at jails for the prisoners, and we perform for the community in general.” 

In addition to the unique performance venues, Kim recalls the opportunities he had and the people he met while visiting Korea as his favorite memories of the program. 

“My favorite memory from volunteering with the Red Cross definitely has to be the people I met and traveling to places inside of Korea that I had never gone to before," Kim said, "as well as performing in these different places and with varying people of age and standing as our audience.” 

The opportunities didn’t come without their fair share of hard work and dedication, and Kim says the work isn’t confined to the events themselves. 

“I've volunteered at many events as most of them are single-day events, as well as practices every weekend over the summer," Kim said. "I'd have to say I volunteered at over twenty of these in the past two years.” 
The orchestra program on campus played a vital role in preparing Kim for large-scale concerts, which he would have to perform in during Red Cross events. 

“My first concert in front of a big audience was in seventh grade at SM," Kim said. "And since then the biggest concert I have played in was during last year's all-state orchestra (TPSMEA), where people from all over the state come to see kids perform.” 

Kim says that his motivation to volunteer with the Red Cross extends beyond just playing music. 

“I definitely supported them raising money for Ukrainian war efforts,” Kim said, “and this year specifically, some of the bigger concerts supported that community. But it’s not only supporting Ukrainians. Even if I didn’t play viola, I think I would do something to volunteer for those efforts. I believe I will keep doing it until senior year, and maybe even further if I decide to.” 
    • The Korean Red Cross Youth Orchestra

    • Kim (left) at a Korean branch of the Red Cross

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