May 24, 2014

Music Enriches Education

It’s the time of the year when school is finishing for many students. For some, school may seem like a drudgery. When music is part of education, then it can be a rich experience -- beyond the graduation processional. Just ask Tomoko.

Tomoko went to elementary public school when times were hard. For secondary education, she attended an elite Dutch Reformed School. The school required singing, especially at Christmas time, and they expected Tomoko to accompany the singers. Not that accompanying was easy; “It was like climbing a mountain, but it made me smarter.” Tomoko remembers, “The preparation was challenging, but I welcomed the opportunity. It brought me friendship, and people respected me.” She also had piano “school” on Saturdays: theory in the morning and performance in the afternoon.

One of the benefits of college is the ability to major in a subject that one likes. For Tomoko, that was an easy choice: piano. It was very difficult to get into the program at the University of Tokyo, and Tomoko felt proud that she made it. Not surprisingly, the piano majors stuck together. They would go to classes in the morning, and practice the rest of the time. What social life they had, they often did together.

While at college, Tomoko studied Gregorian chant, and liked it so much that she became Catholic. (Her grandmother was a Ukrainian Orthodox, and her mother was an active Protestant.) Near the university was the Catholic Church, and Tomoko played the organ at services.

Not surprisingly, when Tomoko came to the United States, it was to study piano -- at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.Especially since Tomoko knew little English -- and was a newcomer to the states -- music was a true lifeline for her. "Music is international. I don't have to say a word, and I can communicate through music. Is is no wonder that Tomoko became a piano teacher.

In thinking about education and music, Tomoko concludes: “There is so much nice music. Music is connecting. And music is a lifelong education.”

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