Friends are important, as Tomoko well knows. She has made good musical friends, and continues to keep in touch with them throughout her life.
A case in point? Tomoko still connects with her high school friends, including at reunions that they hold to this day. “We were all in the same situation,” Tomoko recalls. “It was after the war, and materials were not available. We all made do.”
Tomoko didn’t know anyone in San Francisco when she arrived to study at the Conservatory, but she soon made friends through her classes. She was invited to their homes to celebrate holidays, and even flew one time with a couple of her classmates to Arizona State University to see Pablo Casals in person. “My friend was particularly inspired by him,”Tomoko notes. “We even met him at the airport, and shared a meal with him.”
Tomoko herself idolized Lili Kraus, an internationally famous pianist. In 1962 Tomoko and Lili were both practicing at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and started a professional conversation that bloomed into a long-time friendship.
Several of Tomoko’s friends began as performance partners. For instance, Tomoko met violinist Ernestine Chihuaria in 1968 through the Peninsula Symphony. Ernestine needed an accompanist at the last minute, and Tomoko performed with her at the DeYoung Museum. They continued to perform together as a duet for thirty years, and Tomoko kept in touch with Ernestine until she passed in 2014.
Tomoko also became a friend to many of her students and their families. George Duke, who become a jazz musician, was an early student of hers. She was very impressed with his dedication and his kindness. She performed Brahms and Prokofiev with him, and continued to keep in touch with him.
Tomoko’s friendships were certainly reflected in a recent recital that she arranged, and in which she performed with her current and former students. The audience was filled with her friends, who love her artistry – and her personality. It’s music to her heart.