The topic of student success is “hot” these days. How much of their success is due to their teachers? Several studies state that the teacher is the most important factor. That can certainly apply to Tomoko and her students. She would assert that she sees the potential in her students, and helps them to build their expertise and self-confidence. In either case, many of her students have blossomed in their lives. Here are a few examples.
One of her students came from the area of Yugoslavia that became Croatia. Tomoko encouraged her singing when the girl was a piano student of Tomoko’s, and she become a professoinal singer. Another student, Cristina Igoa, went on the serve on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
Andrew Ahn, who was a student of Tomoko’s for ten years, is now in London working on economics. He asserts, “After joining the working world, I realized so clearly the impact Ms. Hagiwara had on my upbringing. Everything I learned in her two-piano classroom has translated directly to the ‘real world.’ Discipline, incredible work ethic, high standards, pressure cooker situations, performing at the highest level, and acting with class are all fundamental lessons I have embedded in my value system. With equal importance, she vocalized her concept of ‘Yoshi!’ – the resilient spirit necessary in finding a way to succeed no matter the challenges.”
Tomoko’s student Linda Poligono Webster is now in Canada as an engineer. She met her husband Rocky Nevins as the Van Cliburn adult competition, and they cofounded DataSea. She hadn’t known him when he was Tomoko’s student. Linda states, “Tomoko is to this day an integral part of my life. I hear her voice giving me advice when I'm in a difficult situation. I hear her cheering me on when I need encouragement. I hear her challenging me to have courage when I feel like giving up on something. More than just the gift of music, Tomoko has taught me about what it is to have the highest standards as a person: integrity, respect, honesty, and accountability, not just for others, but also for myself.”
Another student of hers, Bora Kim, said, “I wanted to be surrounded by the arts, to be sustained by the creative energies and output of others and myself that shared this singular passion for the arts.
My work at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council enacts this selfsame vision by bringing art and culture to the New York metropolis. If it weren’t for the difficult years of training and what it meant to pour passion into an art form, I would not be able to muster the hard work and dedication into what I do. The teachings and contributions of Tomoko Hagiwara inevitably factor into this, and I consider myself most fortunate to have taken part in her tutelage and guidance. Without her influence, I would not have experienced the transformative aspects of the arts.”
In her teaching, Tomoko feels that there is a “spirit of family.” She has students who are very loyal to her, and study with her for a decade or more. In turn, these students may reflect the importance of family in their love of music. One student’s mother said, “Tomoko is like a grandma. She says that practice is important in everything; she encouraged her students to be self-award and self-disciplined.” Another student’s parent echoed the affirmation: “Tomoko has raised so many children. We’ve all grown because of that.”