Rui's story.

Early Life

I was born in a north region in Japan called Hokkaido. I grew up in a house filled with music of many genres (Classical, Jazz, Folk and more!) thanks to my parents who love music. By the age of 3, I learned more than 200 Japanese children’s songs and was able to sing by memory! That was enough of a sign to show that music was natural to me, so my parents decided to take me to a local piano school when I was 4. That’s how I started piano, and I have been playing nearly 30 years ever since. 

I still remember the spark of joy when I could play my favorite song from the Japanese TV animation “Pretty Warrior Sailor Moon.” I was very optimistic to think that I could play everything I want henceforward! Well, the path was not as easy as that little girl thought. But, I could play nearly everything I desire now. So, my assumption was not wrong, it just took a little longer to get there than I originally imagined. haha!

 

When I was 6, my family decided to move to a bigger city so that I could focus more on my piano training. It must have been tough for my parents, because my dad and the rest of my family had to live separately. But I really appreciate that we moved. My birth town couldn’t offer the comprehensive music training back then so I wouldn't become who I am today without moving.

Going to a kindergarten with my sister.

 

Beginning of Piano Lessons

 I met a wonderful teacher, Mina Yonezawa in a new city. If my first teacher, Fukiko Kawaguchi taught me the love for music, Yonezawa-sensei taught me all the tools to express the love for music. She taught me all the basics, technique, importance of discipline, music history, music theory, and everything else.

 

Later on, I also met an important teacher for me, Kimihiko Kitajima. He always had interesting stories to tell about Europe from his own experience of living in Germany for a while. I still have two notebooks filled with his fascinating episodes and guidance. He also had this amazing opera singer voice! I had the luxury of him frequently singing along to my performances in our lessons. He also taught me a lot of major repertoire that I carry until today, including several piano concertos.

 

I have to mention that I also met a couple more composition teachers, Tatsuya Hayashi and Masaaki Umetani who kept inspiring me to write my own music every year since I was 6. A passion that continues even still!

One of the first recitals I played.

"6 Variations on Slovakian Folk Song" by Kabalevsky

 

Start of Career

The lessons were not easy. When I was a first grader, I practiced over 2 hours daily. When I started participating in piano competitions, I easily practiced for a few hours every single day. Eventually, I practiced for 6 hours by the time I graduated from middle school. I won my first big prize, the Silver medal in the Chopin Competition in Hokkaido, Japan, at the age of 12. About this time, I vaguely started dreaming to become a pianist in the future.

 

Also, I was fortunate enough to travel to Germany and Austria where a lot of famous classical composers were born. I inhaled the same air and stood on the same ground that they used to live, that made me feel closer to classical music. After the trip, I was even more passionate about practicing. I didn’t miss a day, even on my birthdays and Christmas. I didn’t have many friends because I didn’t have time to play with them, but I was happy to live in music. My effort gradually appeared to pay off. I had already won prizes at most of the main competitions in Japan by the age of 18.

In 2007, I entered Kyoto City University of Arts where I met another incredible teacher, Makoto Ueno who taught me the attitude and philosophy to live as an artist. When I sent my first CD, Blooming, he was very happy that I found my own way to convey my passion. I also met a lot of wonderful friends at University, some of whom I am still good friends with. During these 4 years of undergraduate life, I accompanied more than 50 people on over 200 songs that built the base for the love for ensemble.

 

In the summer of 2007, I met another key person in my life, the world-renowned pianist, Michael Lewin. I met him in a music festival in Perugia, Italy. (One of the most gorgeous places that I have visited by the way.) I was in love with his way of teaching so I decided to move to where he is teaching. That was America, at the Boston Conservatory.

Rehearsal for Beethoven Concerto No. 3 with Perugia Festival Orchestra

Debut Recital in Japan

 

Coming to the United States

In 2011, I moved to America to earn my master’s degree in music. Eventually, I earned an Artist Diploma there as well. Moving to America was the biggest impulsive decision that I have ever made in my life. I honestly didn’t think much. I just felt that it was right. And, it was! I ended up adapting into the environment fairly easily.

 

My first city in America was Boston where I spent 9 years. (Very recently I moved to California with my husband in 2020.) Boston treated me really well. I believe in the theory that every path you take is meant to be, but my life needed the time in Boston.

 

I don’t know where to even begin, I have countless good memories. I met tons of wonderful friends from all over the world. With the piano trio that I had through the conservatory I learned most piano trios’ repertoire, learned various perspectives for life, grew up rapidly as a pianist, and became a more open person. I visited many countries for competitions and concerts in this period, such as Italy, Lithuania, Albania, Macedonia, Poland, Spain, England, Austria, and Portugal. Everywhere I went I saw different scenes and life. Sometimes I was so shocked that I couldn't eat properly for a few days. But, I also met numerous people who affected my life positively. All of these experiences made me realize that the World we live in is so different, yet all beautiful. That eventually became the concept of my project, “Blooming.” I just wanted to tell more people that we can unite and create positive power because we are different.

During a temporary return to my home country, Japan in 2013, I won the Grand Prix of the PTNA Competition, Japan's most prestigious national competition. As a result of this victory, I became very busy performing extensively with orchestras, in recitals, and in chamber music concerts in Asia and Europe. I was able to teach many enthusiastic kids in Boston. They made me realize that I love teaching! Teaching kids gives me energy to go forward so I won’t probably stop teaching as long as I can. 

Boston Conservatory Graduation

Awards and Grants:

  • Boston Conservatory Full Scholarship for MM and AD

  • St. Botolph Club Emerging Artists Award

  • Meiji Yasuda Quality of Life Cultural Foundation Sponsored Artist

  • Churchill Competition Grant

  • Grand Prix: PTNA Piano Competition

  • Yomiuri Newspaper Company Award

  • Tokyo City Philharmonic Award

  • Minister of Arts and Culture Award

  • 2nd prize: International Chopin Piano Competition in Hartford

  • Kyoto Musical Association Award

Concertos​:

  • Yoichi Udagawa/Quincy SymphonyOrchestra

  • Larry Isaacson/The Boston Conservatory Orchestra

  • Kentaro Kawase/Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra

  • Kazimierz Brzozowski/Lublin Philharmonic Orchestra

  • Jonathan Heyward/The Lab Orchestra

  • Kazumasa Watanabe/Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra

  • Sergei Babayan/Perugia Festival Orchestra

  • Masui Nobutaka/Kyoto City University of Arts Orchestra

  • Enrico Marconi/Perugia Festival Orchestra

  • Akira Naito/Tokyo New City Orchestra

 
 

Yoga and Project

Now 2021, since the global lockdown, I haven’t been able to play in concerts for over a year. I lost some teaching positions because of that. I know it was a difficult year for everyone. It was a scary time for me, too. However, I learned that nothing is under our control. That fact is prominent this year, but nothing was ever in our control. The world always reacts unexpectedly. All of the attachment and expectation was creating the suffering I was feeling this whole time. the only thing I am able to control is how to respond to what’s happening around me. When I finally realized that, I felt hopeful and relaxed, and am motivated again as REAL MYSELF!

 

Yoga helped me with this process a lot. My curiosity and learning was deep enough to become a certified Yoga teacher.

Now, I have a dream of spreading love through music all over the World. Especially with my project “Blooming,” I want to connect the world more using folk songs and children’s songs. In Blooming, each song has two or three different songs from different countries that illustrates the scene where all the differences exist together beautifully. This is where I want to go.

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