March 7, 2015

Wealth and Performance

Sometimes people associate piano performance with the rich and famous: the idea of high culture and high society. Tomoko has some inside experience with that.

When Tomoko was growing up in Japan she had little chance to perform publicly, except as an accompanist for school choruses. Tomoko recalls, “There were few venues for solo performers except for the elite; programs were expensive to arrange.” Her one major concert occurred soon after she graduated from college, and that was a rare event.

When Tomoko arrived in the United States, she had to start from zero. When Tomoko asked if the local Japanese Council in San Francisco would sponsor her for a consort, they said they would sponsor only famous people. Tomoko conjectures, “They seemed to be more interested in social status than music.”

Tomoko also knows that talent does not reside with just the wealthy. “Rich children are more likely to take piano lessons, and their parents praise their efforts, but the child isn’t necessarily talented,” reminds Tomoko. “You can buy a piano but you can’t buy talent.” In fact, Tomoko asserts, “There are few professional musicians who came from rich families.”

Fortunately, rich people in the community did recognize Tomoko’s talent. Through her studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Tomoko had the opportunity to teach piano to children of well-to-do families. In a few years, well-connected people gave Tomoko the money to perform in Europe and meet influential people there.

In the final analysis, Tomoko knows that all kinds of people love performances, and she believes that all piano students should have opportunities to showcase their ability in public, no matter their financial status. Tomoko enjoys arranging recitals for her students, past and present. She has them perform for a variety of audiences, even the homeless. “You shouldn’t have to have money to play the piano well and to perform. High-class music is for everyone.”

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