August 30, 2014

How economics impacted childhood piano experiences

Economics played a role in Tomoko’s early experiences with the piano.

When Tomoko was a child, her wish to play the piano was impacted by the Japanese economy.  “In pre-war Japan, you had to pay a tax for having a piano. The arts were considered special.” She goes on to say, “When the economy is down, people hunger for the arts.” Music can fill the soul in hard times. People can appreciate the arts as materialism loses its importance. Tomoko points out, “Your music is your own; no one can steal your heart.”

Tomoko's first piano was shared with her brother who started piano lessons ahead of her. The family bought it from neighbors who had to sell their piano during World War II because they needed to money to survive. World War II was very hard on many of the Japanese people economically. Many of them lived in poor conditions; food and clothing were sometimes hard to get. 

Tomoko’s family had to move about this time, partly to save money. This housing situation impacted Tomoko’s piano playing. “My house was too confined to practice, so I took a train street car and walked to my high school,” she recalls. I arrived at 6:30am to practice the piano; school started two hours later. My brain was fresh, and ready to learn, so it was a good schedule. There were other children who also practiced early, so we were like a team.”

Tomoko links those economic times to today. “If you have a lot of money, you don’t have to try. There’s no challenge. If you’re in a zoo, you just get fed. If you’re in the jungle you have to hunt. And that is good. You can be poor, but you can listen and sing. In dark times, music can join people together.”

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