At one point in her life as a student at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Tomoko wasn’t sure she could continue her studies because she lacked the funds to pay her tuition. James Schwabacher, who served on the conservatory’s board, awarded her a scholarship because of her talent and potential. The room in which Tomoko teaches has a plaque honoring him, which she thinks is a very appropriate and special symbol.
James Schwabacher was a lifelong San Franciscan, born in 1920 and died in 2006 in the city. His Jewish family was well to do, due to the banking and office supplies enterprises. Music was also an interest in his family: from a composing grandmother and singing father. James started playing the piano at age 5, and began a singing career in college, performing as a soloist with the University of Berkeley chorus.
After returning from WWII, where he was an army first lieutenant, he joined a company of singers under the leadership of Jan Popper, known as the Opera Man of the West Coast. The same Popper facilitated Tomoko’s immigration to the United States.
Because of multiple surgeries, James had to forego his singer career for teaching. He took part of the Carmel Music Festival, at which Tomoko competed. He interviewed professionals for the San Francisco Opera radio show, and served as a guest speaker at the Carmel Music Festival, at which Tomoko competed. James also founded the Merola Opera Program: the nation's oldest training program for young singers and considered one of the nation's finest. He also supported young musicians, and Tomoko was one of his beneficiaries.
His love of music and support of musicians lasted his whole life, and Tomoko follows in his dedicated footsteps.