Contribution by Darin Rock
Piano Student of Tomoko Hagiwara
It’s hard to qualify music in my life. It’s not quite joy. It’s not really entertainment. It’s more than art. And to call it a love feels too general.
To me, music is more than all of these things, as I believe it must be with most every musician. But what is music to me, really?
I remember obsessing about music back as far as my memory goes. I had my own small record player when I was 4, and would listen endlessly to everything I could find. I memorized melodies and words, and simply thrived on rhythm.
Not long after that, my Grandpa gave me a small organ. I immediately began improvising and composing. I remember the sound would fill my chest and make me feel alive.
I played trumpet all through school – eventually doing quite well in the Bay Area Wind Symphony. There was also a great windfall for me – a piano left at our house by my Aunt and Uncle when they left the states. I was enthralled, and taught myself enough to start composing songs, join a band and spend several years playing clubs and struggling for a chance to make music a way of life.
While the band never got signed, music has remained with me -- Or really, in me – as it has been all my life. I continued to work at music when and how I could. I knew I needed to understand it more, to express it better.
Some 10 years ago, my wife surprised me with a new piano for our house. I was a bit overwhelmed. I could not allow a piano in the house without it being taken to task – and properly. I practiced some basics and auditioned at the San Francisco Conservatory to get into their adult extension program.
It was there I was introduced to Tomoko Hagiwara.
Tomoko has proven to be my greatest challenge in music. She also proved to me that I knew little to nothing about music, and was a true beginner at piano. I was starting at zero at age 40.
While familiar as a teacher, Tomoko is something more, and she expects something of you as a musician. She is exacting, commanding, insightful, demanding, unrelenting, exceptional and beautiful – and of course, masterful.
And what does she demand of you as a musician?
Because that is what music really is.
Music is your awareness on display. Your emotions of every color mixed for others to see. Music is the nature of things, heart mind and soul, and can be nothing less than full truth in all of this. The pursuit of this for me has meant a life long commitment, humility, and a willingness to listen and learn from Tomoko.
I am forever grateful to Tomoko for helping me arrive at this understanding over the last 10 years. The truth remains my life long pursuit, and I hope to forever continue this journey with the enlightenment of Tomoko and the tireless love and support of my family.