August 3, 2019

The Sounds of Paris


Even as a child, Tomoko looked to Europe for musical inspiration. When Tomoko was in college, she loved to go to concerts when European musicians toured in Tokyo. “One day I will witness such performers in their home country,” Tomoko remembers saying to herself then
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Tomoko’ own first European performance took place in Paris: at the Long-Thibaud International Piano Competition in Paris, which promoted classical music. She admitted, “I feel a little guilty having such a good time here.” Tomoko wasn’t sure if she would ever have a chance to visit Europe again so she took every opportunity to see the sites of Paris.  

Tomoko isn’t the only musician to be inspired by Paris. Certainly, some of Tomoko’ favorite composers spent valuable time in the memorable city.

As a ten-year old protégé, Mozart gave recitals in the homes of wealthy Parisians. Later a local musical society commissioned his “Paris” Symphony No. 31. Unfortunately, most of Mozart’s time in Paris was not enjoyable, especially because his mother died there.

More than fifty years later, Chopin arrived in Paris and stayed for most of the rest of his life, even becoming a French citizen. He gave only thirty public performances because he preferred giving recitals in private salons where his intimate keyboard technique was better suited. Most of his income, though, came from giving private lessons and getting commissions to compose. 

Four years earlier than Chopin, Liszt moved from Vienna to Paris where he gave piano and composition lessons. Liszt stood out because of his virtuoso piano performance technique, but Chopin was sometimes annoyed that Liszt would embellish Chopin’s compositions when performing. Nevertheless, the two men were friends, and made joint appearances at several concerts. 

A generation later, Gabriel Fauré started studying classical music in Paris when nine years old; by his mid teens he was tutored by Saint-Saëns. Later in life, Fauré himself taught at the Paris Conservatoire; among his pupils was Ravel. The music of Mozart and Chopin greatly influenced him; over the years Fauré stylistically bridged romanticism and impressionism.

One of Tomoko’s 20th century admired composers is Francis Poulenc, who was actually born in Paris at the turn of the century. One of her set pieces that Tomoko performs is “Trois mouvements perpétuels,” which Poulenc composed as a teen on a local elementary school piano. 

The sounds of Paris have certainly influenced Tomoko.

July 26, 2019

Tomoko's Musical World of Vienna


Tomoko has traveled several times to Europe, and one of her special cities is Vienna. No wonder – with its musical history. For instance, Tomoko visited Beethoven’s house in Vienna, which was made into a museum. 

Vienna is sometimes called the capital of classical music, largely because it was the hub of 19th century musical composition and performance. Music was a booming industry then, attracting such luminaries as Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Strauss, and Berg. 

Several of Tomoko's favorite composers, teachers and performers were connected with Vienna.
Mozart spent much of his life in Vienna, starting with an invitation for him to play a concert at the Habsburg family Schonbrunn Palace.

German composer Ludwig van Beethoven. He lived several years in Vienna, and was largely influenced by the Viennese classical tradition of Mozart and Haydn. 

Finnish composer Jean Sibelius fantasized studying in Vienna under Brahms or Bruckner. Both of them rejected Sibelius, but he was able to study informally in Vienna and networked with musicians in the city. Sibelius wrote to his family: “Vienna is all laughter and waltzes.”

Tomoko studied under Adolph Baller, and she earned money as a page-turner for him when she was a student at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Baller was sent at age eight to Vienna to study the piano; he debuted with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at age thirteen.

One of Tomoko’s earliest musical inspirations was pianist Lili Kraus. Tomoko collected her LPs as a youngster, and crossed paths with Lili several times. In her early career, Lili was a professional performer and professor at the Vienna Academy. She also met and married Austrian philosopher Otto Mandl in Vienna.

Vienna continues to hum with music, offering a wide range of music: from classical to progressive jazz and rock concerts. Although Tomoko doesn’t travel abroad much now, her mental memories of Vienna still roam in her mind.

July 3, 2019

Parents Praise Tomoko


Tomoko’s students often shared Tomoko’s advice with their parents, and those parents also received great advice from Tomoko directly. A sampling follows.

“My daughter started piano lessons just wanting to play Bach, but she learned to appreciate other composers, even Beethoven who is a bear to play.”

“Tomoko does a good job choosing songs that match the person’s personality.”

“Tomoko selects pieces for a lifetime.”

“Tomoko brings out a person’s musical potentiality. She breaks down hard pieces into manageable parts to practice.”

“Tomoko challenges and pushes students. She told me one day, ‘I would be insulting if I didn’t challenge them."

“Tomoko has faith in her students and guides them. My son’s recital was one of his greatest challenges but he succeeded and it helped him with future challenges.”

“Tomoko helps students learn how to carry themselves in life.”

 “Tomoko is like a grandma with her advice: ‘Practice in everything. Be self aware and self disciplined.’”

“Tomoko shares her passion and love.  Her dedication for so many years putting up with students is astounding. Students are so lucky. Tomoko models her own advice: “Llive a life that honors you.”