Sometimes musical performances seem effortless, but years of hard work lies behind such facile appearances. Tomoko knows that well, and knows that hard work can lead to success.
When she first came to the United States, she had to work hard to stay, not only in studying piano and other music but also learning English and getting acculturated. She also taught piano lessons to make money, although that wasn’t enough for her tuition. Fortunately, others recognized how hard she worked, and Conservatory Board member James Schwabacher underwrote her tuition, and said to her, “Your job is to study.”
“Studying piano is hard work,” Tomoko tells her students, “but it is worth it,” she reminds them. She likes to challenge her students, to stretch them musically. But she also supports them in their effort. Tomoko likens learning a new piece of music like climbing a mountain. It is a challenge that requires careful preparation, patience, and constant movement, solid step by solid step. “You need to practice every day.”
As for Tomoko, she says, “Music is like peanuts. Take Chopin’s nocturne in D flat minor #2. I could practice it so many times.” That’s when work doesn’t seem like work at all.