May 2, 2015

Never Turning Back

Tomoko left Japan in 1962 to continue her musical studies and career, and was accepted at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. It was a life-changing experience.

Tomoko studied composition and theory, including counterpoint, with Mr. Sol Joseph there. She learned 12-tone music and other aspects of composition with Robert Erickson. He encouraged students to explore their own compositional styles. This support led Tomoko, who was a voice minor, to have several opportunities to perform her many haiku compositions. “These teachers were more encouraging and more nurturing of creativity than teachers in Japan,” remembers Tomoko. She continues, “There were so many talented teachers in the 1960s; they were very open-minded and welcoming.”

Tomoko also owes James H. Schwabacher a great debt of gratitude. At one point in her college career, Tomoko didn’t have enough money to pay for her tuition. At this critical time James Schwabacher provided Tomoko with the scholarship money so she could continue at the Conservatory. James Schwabacher was a board member of the school then. He was a true musician and patron of the arts. A classical singer with a very promising future, James Schwabacher suffered a non-malignant growth on his vocal chords, His career was redirected into teaching and mentoring. 

It was no wonder that Tomoko did not return to Japan. Instead, after graduating she became a piano teacher herself at the Conservatory: the first east Asian faculty member there. She, in turn, has taught and mentored many musical students.

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