November 20, 2011

Valuing the Arts

Because Veterans Day was recently celebrated and Thanksgiving is coming this week, Tomoko’s recollections about Japan and the arts seems timely. One good outcome of World War II was a renewed appreciation of the importance of the arts. As Tomoko says, “Art is something that remains in one’s culture.” Additionally, art is an international language; “You don’t need to translate music.” After the war, Japan brought foreign artists to its land to perform and teach. Pablo Casals came. Russian pianists come. Even before the war, Japan invited Prokofiev, who played his own compositions there in 1927. Overall, Japan has been effective in borrowing from other cultures, and adapting their art.

Tomoko remembers how after WWII people who had been rich were no longer in such high status. Her family obtained a pedal organ, and then bought a piano from neighbors who needed ready cash. Tomoko remarked that the rest of her family’s home was austere, but music played an important role in their lives so her parents made sure that musical instruments were available.

Because music and the arts were so important, Tomoko learned the accompanying importance of quality. Very precise high standards were expected. She noted that today’s students quit too soon, perhaps because they do not value music and the opportunity to perform music as much as those in Japan when Tomoko was growing up. Some students might not think that they can ever play well, but Tomoko asserts that all students have talent but that they grow at different rates so need to persevere in their piano studies.

Tomoko generalizes her point about nationality and music. “People love music. If you’re a musician, they respect you more politically.” Tomoko noted that Poland’s president played the piano, and made connections that way. “He played the piano before the Congress started.” Several U.S. Presidents have played instruments, and U.S.’s Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was a music major at Stanford. “Her personality is very sweet. She was also a skater, and talked to all the Olympics skaters,” Tomoko said, whose daughter is an Olympics skater.

Now is the time to be thankful for the role of music in political and personal life. Many ethnic motifs are found in Tomoko’s album Touria. Listen to it at