September 24, 2016

The Richness of Cultural Interaction

Tomoko has appreciated the diverse cultures and backgrounds of her students, to some degree because of her own experience. She enjoyed performances by foreign musicians, and as a student in Japan, she had both Japanese and non-Japanese teachers.

Tomoko was the first Asian teacher at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, so knew how it felt to be culturally different from many of her colleagues. And she accepted the first Black student of the Conservatory. Throughout the years, she has continued to teach a wide variety of students. Here are a few examples.

Christina Igoa  came from a Muslim family. She was born in the Philippines, and her father was the President of Philippine Airlines. Tomoko has known her for almost twenty years, and is proud of Dr. Igoa's accomplishments in life, including her work on the UN 2013 Commission on the Status of Women.

Another one of her students came from the area of Yugoslavia that became Croatia. Tomoko encouraged her singing when the girl was a piano student of Tomoko, and she became a professional singer.

One of Tomoko's long-time students, Vivian, lived with her family in Vietnam. Her father was a young tutor of wealthy children. One rainy day on his way home from tutoring, he stopped and stood under his umbrella, inspired as he listened to someone playing Chopin. At that moment, he thought to himself: "If I have a daughter, she must study piano."Indeed, he fathered Vivian, and she studies piano -- with Tomoko. "Vivian performs Chopin, Liszt, and Beethoven beautifully," says Tomoko. She continues, "Both her children studied piano with me throughout their childhood. So that moment of rain led to at least two generations of pianists, and most likely more."

Another student, Rowan, was born in Australia, and his mother was born in Kenya. He started at age 7, and hated the piano. But he joined the San Francisco boys' chorus, and learned the importance of reading and play music. Tomoko remarks, "Who know where experience leads. It is not good to stop possibilities."

That sense of surprising success is exemplified in Tomoko's student Brai, who is Chinese. He is small, and was benched in footfall.  He learned not only how to play the piano, but also to gain the discipline and perseverance to succeed academically, as illustrated by his acceptance into Harvard.

What do Tomoko's students of these different cultures say of her?  Tomoko's daughter Beata hears those students, and remembers them saying, "We love your mom so much. She is the best. She works so hard. She teachers with her heart." Beata concludes, "They are to grateful."

The interaction of cultures can enrich everyone's lives. Music facilitates that interaction: both between the performer and the composer -- and, in Tomoko's case, between student and teacher.

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