February 11, 2018

Mapping the Musical Journey

Tomoko loves to travel and broaden her musical horizons. She also guides her students’ musical journey.

As a young girl, Tomoko began her musical path by following her brother’s trail. They would take the train to have piano and organ lessons. 

When the family moved from Tokyo to Yokohama, Tomoko enrolled in the prestigious Ferris Academy, where she expanded her performance skill. From the school’s hilltop, Tomoko would view the harbor with its sailing ships. “There’s a ship waiting for me,” she thought. “I will play the piano in America some day.”

After graduating from the University of Tokyo, known for its music program, Tomoko mapped her emigration to the United States, both in terms of flying and in pursuing her musical education.

And her journeys did not end there. Tomoko traveled to Europe, not only to compete internationally but also to experience the continent’s musical history and scene. In the process, she met great musicians, played a Medici harpsichord, visited Chopin’s residence, and had other musical adventures.

For fifty years Tomoko has also helped her students map their musical journey. She encourages them to explore each composition for its musical paths, and to visit the lives of the composers. She challenges them to climb musically in order to view the landscape of the profession. Tomoko assserts, "We need to grow and develop."

Each trip and each student, unfolds, like a map. Tomoko enjoys opening a new map. What will be the goal? How will we get there? What sites are along the way? What challenges will we meet – and overcome? And at the end of each experience, Tomoko knows to let the map “fold itself.” She does not try to reshape the experience or the student. Instead, she enables her students to reshape themselves and to make their own musical journeys. 

Tomoko knows her way – and applauds her students’ own musical explorations. 

January 23, 2018

Begin with Music

It’s the beginning of the year, and music is a great way to start the year. 

Music can be a lifelong joy. And that joy can begin early in life. Tomoko knows.

Her father had played the violin in his youth, and her mother sang hymns as she cleaned the house. Her family had a record player, and listened to classical music. Tomoko liked listening to music on the radio too. 

Singing songs was part of the Japanese educational curriculum when Tomoko was growing up. There were textbooks all public and private schools had with songs for schoolchildren for each elementary grade. The government wanted to make sure everyone had a music education. Tomoko recalls: “When I was in grades 7-12 at Ferris Academy we had mass every morning and had to sing, of course. I enjoyed the singing, and all the students knew how to sing well.”

It’s never to early to begin the love of music in a child. Mothers and fathers can sing to their babies. Lullabies are very soothing, but folk songs and even modern songs can be pleasant to hear; the main point is for the singer to enjoy sharing the song. There are many nursery songs that children can learn, and when the family sings together it is special. Tomoko says, “It’s a good way to communicate.”  

Play music in the home, be it on the radio, on a DVD, or on the computer. Music is not only an esthetic experience; it is also educational. Listening to music helps children learn the concept of rhythm, which helps them learn language too.  Having a musical instrument is wonderful because children can see how music can be created, and explore the instrument’s physicality. Music and science go hand in hard. 

There are so many ways to bring music and harmony into people’s lives. Begin now!