The figure Janus, for January, has two faces: tone that looks back and one that looks ahead. As the start of the year, now is a good time to look back and how Tomoko’s starting points in life. Tomoko says, “Behind each profession is experience.”
Historically, the Japanese appreciated the importance of the arts and its international language. Japan invited top-quality musicians to perform: Pablo Casals, Yehudi Menuhin, Rudolf Serkin. Growing up after WWII, Tomoko was fortunate to hear outstanding foreign musicians, which marked her decision to play the piano seriously. “I learned quality from artists with very precise high standards.”
At home, Tomoko practiced on a piano brought from neighbors who needed the money. “The rest of our house was simple,” Tomoko said, “but music was important to my family.” As a teenager, Tomoko accompanied people at performances in people’s homes. She was given dress material in order to have nice clothing for these performances.
In the late 1950s Tomoko came to the United States to study piano and to enter the professional musical world, which was limited in Japan at that time for her. For her audition she played a Mozart concerto, which she performed confidently. She would good at sight-reading, and would accompany other musicians, which gave her even more confidence. As a student, Tomoko also had to study hard in order to remain in the United States; even a B+ could have jeopardized her status. In four years she earned her Bachelors of Music from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where she became the first woman piano faculty there. Then in 1971 she became a U.S. citizen.
As for her start in recording albums, that didn’t start until the 1990s. Now she has thirteen albums.
What is in Tomoko’s future? Music as always: teaching, performing, recording. She notes, “Teaching has to be always on the outlook – watch out what’s coming up.”There’s also something new to discover when listen to Tomoko perform. A good start is her album Baroque—2oth Century, going from Schumann’s “Scenes from Childhood” to Beethoven’s “Adieu to the Piano.” It is available at https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/tomokohagiwara5