November 29, 2013

Gifts of Music

Music – and friends of music -- brought Tomoko  to the United States – and kept her there.

About the time that Tomoko graduated from the Tokyo University for Fine Arts and Music, she played a noteworthy recital.  UCLA  Opera Theater Director Jan Popper was impressed with Tomoko’s performance, and figured out a way for her to join a group of Japanese singers traveling to California.

Once she arrived, Tomoko applied and auditioned  successfully for the Conservatory of San  Francisco.  She worked hard; even a B+ could mean the end of her student visa. But hard work and academic excellence were not enough;  tuition was a struggle. At one point, Tomoko felt as if she were in the middle of the ocean. She had come so far, but was afraid she would need to return to Japan. So she was so excited and relieved when she was informed that one of the Conservatory’s board members, James Schwabacher, would pay her tuition. At the time, Tomoko didn’t know who he was. In addition, a widow let Tomoko reside at her house for two years.

After graduating from the Conservatory,  Tomoko started teaching, largely for Japanese families in their homes, growing her clientele through positive recommendations based on her teaching. She also worked with the Japanese Consulate.  Tomoko then became the first east Asian teacher at the Conservatory, where she continues to instruct and mentor. Over the years, Tomoko has more than  given back to her community through her expertise and dedication. We have all benefited from her musical gifts.

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