Case Study is a new series in which we ask musicians to tell us a bit more about their approach to music making—and life!—by opening their instrument cases to us and letting us peek inside. Today, we're featuring Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra cellist Ann Kim.

A member of the Festival Orchestra since 2003, Ann is also a full-time member of the New York City Ballet Orchestra. She frequently performs the onstage cello role in Jerome Robbins's A Suite of Dances, set to four movements from Bach's Cello Suites, most recently with NYCB dancer Gonzalo García in May 2019. When she isn’t at Lincoln Center, she is traveling the world as a soloist and chamber musician. We loved learning about all the accessories that help her adapt the tone and color of her playing to any style.


Case Study: Cellist Ann Kim (and Giovanni!)
Photo and graphics by Dan Gomes
The contents of Ann Kim's cello case, with numeric labels

1. Cello – Meet Giovanni, Ann's first full-sized cello, which she's had since she was 15 years old. The instrument is a modern Italian cello and was built in Milan in 1897. Since owning the cello, Ann has replaced the tailpiece and the neck, for ergonomic reasons. Every little change she makes to the instrument changes the sound in subtle ways, but with the latter change she was thrilled with how the sound just started "shooting out of the cello."

2. Strings – Ann carries a complete set of extra strings around with her at all times in the event one breaks or "loses its oomph." She often mixes brands and string tensions to achieve the sound and resonance she is looking for. She labels her strings with the date they were bought.

3. Bows – Ann uses two bows with different weight and balance, giving her a choice based on the style and sound she wants. She particularly loves the bottom bow, which has a unique ebony tip with an inlaid mother-of-pearl dot and which she got when she was 16.

4. Endpin – this endpin is made up of three different types of metals with a tungsten core. It brightens the sound of the instrument and, due to its heft, also improves stability.

5. Case & pouch – Ann's hard-shell case keeps her instrument, bows, and all other accessories neatly organized and protected.

6. Rosin – cello rosin for the bows. Enough said. 

7. Roller ball – to help with muscle soreness, Ann practices muscle manipulation using a massage ball against a good wall.

8. Mutes – Ann carries two types of mutes: a Tourte style mute and a Glaesel mute. She feels both achieve similar results.

9. Wolf tone eliminator – this device helps balance string frequencies and eliminates wolf tones ("a weird kind of hoarse sound") when playing. This custom wolf tone eliminator is made out of a nickel, which adds just the right amount of weight.

10. Makeup – She doesn't usually wear makeup, but keeps some lipstick and lipliner in her case for concert days.

11. Wipe rag – an essential accessory for keeping her instrument clean. Ann especially likes this rag because it has been monogrammed for her.

12. Earplugs – because at the end of her career she wants to be able to hear as well as she did at the beginning!

Case Study: Cellist Ann Kim (and Giovanni!)
Photo by Dan Gomes
Ann Kim, cellist in the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra

About the Artist

Ann Kim joined the New York City Ballet Orchestra in 2001. Outside of the ballet world, Ann's accomplishments have included concerto performances with The Philadelphia Orchestra, the Concerto Soloists Orchestra of Philadelphia, and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. As a chamber musician, Ann has performed in Aspen, Banff, and BargeMusic in New York City. She was nominated for a GRAMMY Award in 2002 with her band Absolute. During the summer, Ann is a permanent member of Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra. She received her master's degree from The Juilliard School. 

Led by conductor Louis Langrée, the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra is the resident orchestra of the Mostly Mozart Festival.

Dan Gomes is the manager of social communications for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.