Kihoon Sung

Music and Chemistry conjoint student Kihoon believes the communication skills he's learnt from his Bachelor of Music are key for any successful career.

Music and Chemistry student Kihoon Sung sitting, smiling at his desk with his guitar and composition software on the computer monitor
Kihoon Sung, Bachelor of Music (Composition) and Bachelor of Science (Chemistry) student

Bachelor of Music (Composition) and Bachelor of Science (Chemistry) conjoint student Kihoon Sung moved to New Zealand from South Korea with his family when he was just two. He came to the University of Auckland from Auckland Grammar School, where he excelled in Chemistry and Music.

Rather than making the tough decision of which subject to pursue, Kihoon chose to take the conjoint option - meaning he studies two degrees at the same time. It's a hard slog, but Kihoon is enjoying the challenge!

Choosing Composition

In a bachelor degree at the School of Music, you can choose to specialise in performance-based areas: Classical (voice and instrument), Jazz or Popular Music, or in the non-performance-based areas of Composition or Music Studies. Kihoon chose Composition.

"In high school, I was introduced to the area of composing with guidance from New Zealand composer David Hamilton and had a lot of fun with it.

"Most of the time at University, we (composition students) ask performance students to play our pieces. However, we also have opportunities to have our pieces played by professional musicians, such as the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (APO) and NZTrio. Sometimes, for those of us who can play instruments, we'll also perform our own pieces.

"The best thing I enjoy about composition is that there are no limits to creativity - you can do whatever you want on what you want to compose, whether it is thematic pieces or just for the fun of it. Having pieces played by actual musicians instead of just listening to computer playbacks is very, very different, and an unforgettable experience."

Studying a conjoint degree

"It’s an exciting experience having two completely different fields of study; one having very defined principles (chemistry) and one being open-field and relying on creativity (composition). However, I have been composing pieces based on chemical aspects, trying to portray chemical reactions and concepts with music. It is definitely a unique experience.

"Because I am a conjoint student, often my timetabling can look crazy. A typical week consists of lectures, lectures and lectures, some workshops and tutorials, and biweekly labs.

"In between lectures, I usually hang with my friends either in the music spaces, or in the Information Commons area in the Kate Edgar building - where everyone is usually at. Sometimes, I do chill out on my own, do some work or just space out."

Lecturers and facilities

"The music lecturers are some of the kindest and most helpful people out there, and extremely approachable (they don’t bite!). Sometimes, you will have struggles with your studies, and the lecturers understand because they were once students too, and they know exactly how you feel. They will guide and help you, specific to your needs.

"The facilities at the School of Music are quite different from most other schools. It’s an area where you can relax, work and hang out with friends, and the composition labs are filled with all the latest software and hardware that you will need during your music degree."

Best bits

At the School of Music, our students have the opportunity to perform at a number of popular prize concerts.

"Over the years, Sonic Arts has really grown on me and right now is one of my strengths. In 2020, I performed my electroacoustic piece, '6.022 x 10­23' for bass guitar and live electronics, at the Douglas Lilburn Trust Composition Prize Concert. I won the highly commended award, which is the highlight of my degree so far.

"The most valuable skill I have learnt from my conjoint degree is time management. Often it is difficult to balance everything and do your work in time while trying to maintain a social life, but I have trained myself to go to every lecture, start assignments early, work progressively and finish everything on time."

There are no limits to creativity in the Bachelor of Music. You get to express yourself however you want through composing, songwriting, or classical, jazz and pop performance.

Kihoon Sung

Hopes for the future

Kihoon believes that the communication skills he has learnt through his Bachelor of Music will prove invaluable in almost any line of work. For composers in particular, he explains:

"Communicating with performers is crucial, or else nothing will work, likewise outside of the music industry – clear communication is key for any successful relationship, both personal and professional."

"Once I graduate, I plan to do one year of postgraduate studies (Bachelor of Music with Honours) in music composition, and after that, I hope to work in the music industry with many renowned musicians and have my music played and performed out there in the wider world!"

Bachelor of Music student Kihoon Sung standing in the courtyard at the School of Music

Kihoon's older brother also studied at the Faculty of Creative Arts and Industries, graduating with a Master of Architecture (Professional)

Kihoon's a bit of a gamer in his spare time, focusing on music and rhythm games - naturally. He also plays bass, guitar and drums at his local church.

Listen to Kihoon's music here.