Alumni Profiles

HYS believes that music education builds character and gives students the lifelong skills necessary for leading successful, well-balanced lives. Our alumni have proven us right time and time again. The Forte section in each issue of our alumni newsletter,  Lead Sheet, profiles one of our many distinguished alumni who are leading the way in our communities. Check out these stories:

Eric Miyashiro, HYS ’81 (trumpet)

Dave Masunaga, HYS ’75 (oboe)

Edgy Lee, HYS ’69 (violin)

Leslie Tagorda, HYS ’92 (clarinet)

 

Eric Miyashiro, HYS ’81 (trumpet)

Describe what you are doing now (career, projects, etc):

I work a lot as a “studio musician”. TV shows, commercials, movie soundtracks, CD, DVDs, basically every type of music.  I also do many concerts with school bands, big bands, orchestras, and clinic/master classes. I have a big band that has been very active since 1995, and am currently working to record my fifth CD due to be released in September.

What inspired you to pursue a music career? What are its rewards and hardships?

My dad was a member of the Royal Hawaiian Band, so music was always around me as a child. It was not really a choice, it came naturally as I knew early on that music was what I was going to do for the rest of my life. Til this day, I was never “taught” by anyone, my dad didn’t teach me, or make me practice. For me, trumpet started as a “Toy.” I played it when I wanted, and stopped when I got bored.

The word “practice” was never in my vocabulary. It was always fun to play, and when it wasn’t , I just quit, and did something else.  I guess that was good in a way that I was never shackled to the mechanical part of playing, I just love creating music, so the practice room wasn’t a place for me to do that.  I just made sure I found as much place and opportunity to perform live, and that was where I “practiced” my craft.

The reward part is always different as to the situation. I feel that musicians are like healers, we communicate with the audience through music to let them emote and feel, and that often leads to healing, and that is the greatest reward. As to the hardships of being a musician, I never felt that way, really!!
What were your experiences with the Hawaii Youth Symphony like?

It was a great learning experience!!!  Although I am known mostly as a Jazz player, I do a great amount of classical music. So playing in Youth Symphony (and Junior Orchestra)  gave me the foundation that helps me with my current work situations.

Why did you join HYS?

Like I said, I love all types of music. Music co-exists with all genre, and they interact with each other. That is why it is so important to learn and expand your musical knowledge. Learning other forms of music can only enhance your ability to create music.

Aside from your career, how else has music impacted your life?

Music has taken me around the globe.  Besides every state in the US, I have visited 42 countries so far, and met so many wonderful people. I met my wife through music (she is a trumpeter!!)  and am blessed with two beautiful children.

I am traveling to Europe twice this summer with a Yamaha artist tour, and will be in Denver and Seattle later in the year.

I must say, I am having a wonderful life living through music, any “hardship” is nothing compared to the joy and wonder of this adventure!!!!

One last word to the young musicians: Even if you don’t pursue music as your career, do stay close to your music.  Music is part of life. A birthday song, a wedding march, graduation or funeral music is there with you to celebrate and ease your pain through the rough times. Don’t just download mp3s to your ipod or watch concerts on the internet. Instead, go to concerts where you can feel music that is alive. And pass on to your friends (and when you have kids!!) what you have learned with HYS.

Remember, being able to play music is like knowing magic spells. You have been blessed with this gift.  Please try to keep playing as much as possible to help make this world a better place!!!

Dave Masunaga, HYS ’75 (oboe)

When and why did you join HYS?

It was my band teacher, Mr. Edward Kanaya, who told several of us (as 8th graders) of a great opportunity to play symphony repertory, and he steered us to the HYS auditions. I was accepted to and joined HYS’s Junior Orchestra as an oboist in my 9th grade year, 1971, under Maestro Harold Higa.  After an exciting eye-opening year with Mr. Higa, I was hooked for life!  The following year we had only one choice of orchestra for which to audition since there was only one senior orchestra at the time, the Youth Symphony.  Spots for wind players were highly competitive, but I did pass the auditions with Maestro Peter Mesrobian and made it to the last seat – the chair position in oboe!

What were your experiences with the Hawaii Youth Symphony like?

The operation of the early decades of the Youth Symphony set the high standards for rehearsal, repertory and concerts which exist to this day.  From the early years the orchestra was doing exciting tours of Oahu schools and Neighbor Island venues, bringing student talent to communities which did not have access to live symphonic music.  To me HYS was also a memorable experience since it was not only a performing arts organization where you were challenged by the discipline to play at a high level, but you were also educated about music, its history and theory, and its rich performing traditions.  Adding to that was the thrill of practicing, rehearsing and performing vaunted masterworks for the first time.  I can still remember my first Brahms Symphony #1, Dvorak New World Symphony and Tchaikovsky Symphony #5, all under Peter Mesrobian.

Describe what you are doing now and whether music had any part in shaping your career.

The love of music and the love of making music have informed many career and interest decisions and is in part attributable to my time in HYS.  This marks my 31st year of teaching mathematics, and I constantly see the influence of the music I studied in HYS in all areas of vocation and interest.  In fact I have given numerous professional and educational talks on the relationships between music, mathematics and design, and how pattern and symmetries form a unifying concept between the three.  Whether it be the Fibonacci relationships in plants and Bartók, Asian textiles and cantus firmi, periodicity in M.C. Escher and J.S. Bach, or even the rotational pattern of a fruit flan, all exhibit incredible analogs to both musical and mathematical forms.  A seminar course that I currently teach, Design Science, covers these interrelationships in a study of the applications of mathematics in the visual and performing arts.

I need to say here that the efforts of thousands of volunteers and donors sustained us in the early years as it does today.  Everyone gave so generously of their time and resources – during my time there was Richard Ariyoshi, Helen and Noel Kefford, Gladys Hirano, just to name a few.  Without these “visionaries” none of us would have had our seminal experiences in music, nor would the organization have had the foresight to become what it is today.

How has music impacted your life and are you still involved in playing an instrument in any way?

HYS provided the spark for many students like me who have gone on to spend the rest of our lifetimes enjoying and performing music.  A number of fellow HYS-ers perform with me in the Oahu Civic Orchestra, the Kamuela Philharmonic, the UH Symphony Orchestra, the UH-Hilo Symphony, the Kona Symphony and other chamber and ensemble groups.  Marvin Rabin, the legendary conductor of the Greater Boston Youth Symphony, once told us YS members that the musical experiences we garnered in high school would have a profound effect on our futures.  He said that we would become musicians, symphony board members, and partakers of a vibrant arts community in Hawaii.  It has become true of my life as well as the thousands of children who have gone through HYS’s many programs.  Rabin’s words still ring clear today as HYS continues its mission to train its members to strive for musical excellence, to become lifelong learners, to provide community service and a future for music.

Click to see the cover article for the Mathematics Teacher journal on the mathematical relationship between a fruit flan and Schumann’s Carnaval!

Edgy Lee, HYS ’69 (violin)

Check out what Edgy is doing with the innovative and awesome Pacific Network TV. Tap into Connections, the Pacific Network Community, to keep up with EVERYTHING Hawaii. Give it a shot, you’re gonna be amazed at what’s happening there.

Describe what you are doing now and whether music had any part in shaping your career.

I’m continuing to produce and direct and now I’m involved in a major Internet television network of 9 Channels with programming produced in Hawaii and broadcasting throughout the world. It’s like having all the Discovery and History Channels rolled into one with a different slant on local news, add KGMB9’s library of vintage TV shows, Hawaii Public Radio and other media partners, make it interactive so you, the audience, participate and that’s PacificNetwork.tv.  Nothing like this anywhere.

Did music have anything to do with my career as a filmmaker and founding a production driven high tech start up?

Absolutely. I began playing piano at the age of 4 and later studied violin. When other kids spent their weekends surfing, hiking, going to the mall, I was at HYS rehearsals every Saturday and practicing both instruments daily in between my homework. I am certain that this kind of discipline led me to understand the process of creativity. It might take hours and hours that can turn into years but if you have a vision or you can hear what you want your fingers to express with a modicum of talent and a lot of hard work you’ll get there.

What were your experiences with the Hawaii Youth Symphony like?

Some of the kids I met at HYS were part of a group that traveled to Russia when the Soviet Union was under strict communist rule. When we landed in Moscow they sent all the adults to Leningrad. It was a quiet diplomatic incident but what did we know?  The people were very poor but they loved music. They knew classic symphonies as if they were pop songs. They wanted ball point pens and Beatles records that sold only on the black market. I’d love to see Patti Horio, the Bechtel kids (all of them such great players) the deNeeve kids, and Yvonne Elliman who wasn’t in HYS with us but we all sang together in a group and performed on Russia radio. Yvonne and I are in touch and in fact she gave us an incredible interview for PacificNetwork.tv. What a career she has had.

Why did you join HYS?

It was a natural progression. To play with young players who were the best of the best is very encouraging. Not all of us who wear glasses and play classical instruments are nerds. We just have the ability to step in and out of a world that is timeless and where you’d most often find adults not kids.

How has music impacted your life and are you still involved in playing an instrument in any way?

Music is always in my life. I shipped my baby grand here when I moved to Hawaii. It belonged to Stephen Bishop the singer/songwriter so it had a brightness like a pop writer would like and in this weather it worked even better. I still have my violin but don’t practice so I’m not very good. But you may laugh, I’m fascinated with the harmonica and trying to learn how to master it. You can take it anywhere and if you’ve ever heard Toots Thielemans you’ll understand the possibilities.

My mother is a mezzo soprano who studied voice at Julliard and she sang in French, Italian and German. My dad played by ear, any instrument he picked up, and he played well. My sisters played piano and cello and we grew up with music all our lives. It’s part of our family ritual to perform and sing around the piano during holidays and parties.

When I was in L.A. I knew directors, producers, and some film composers. My godfather was also one of the industry’s finest film composers. But he composed for MGM during a time when a film score was paramount to making a picture. I learned a lot from him. Music in his day was recorded on a live stage with an 80 piece orchestra and if you didn’t get it right you did it over and over again. No digital help back then.

Since directors aren’t necessarily musical and songwriters who are great pop artists can’t necessarily score a picture it’s a totally different kind of movie making. I absorbed as much as I could in LA and looked at some of the best directors and at classic films. Spielberg works with John Williams, Fellini worked with Nino Rota, and one of the greatest modern composers, Ennio Morricone. scored Sergio Leone westerns to Cinema Paradiso. Music can make a mediocre film 100 times better. Music brings people to tears. As a producer/director I always consider music as a 3rd element, like another lead actor.

I’m reading about string theory and then to understand the physics of music is so incredibly inspiring because when you’re a child you don’t know nor care to understand any of the theory behind why something works. How a cello creates such a resonant sound or how a bassoon works or why certain pieces of music are timeless. You just know that music is the ultimate form of self-expression even when you’re playing someone else’s compositions.  Music will always be a very important part of my life. I can’t imagine otherwise.

Leslie Tagorda, HYS ’92 (clarinet)

Describe what you are doing now (career, projects, etc) and whether music had any part in shaping your career.

I make my living in 2 contrasting creative fields – as a professional classical clarinetist and as a web & graphic designer. As a clarinetist, I play in professional regional orchestras and opera companies in the greater San Francisco Bay Area and am very involved in chamber music with my woodwind quintet Quinteto Latino. In San Francisco, I have played with orchestras and opera companies such as the New Century Chamber Orchestra, California Symphony, Oakland East Bay Symphony, Marin Symphony, Napa Valley Symphony, San Francisco Lyric Opera, Sacramento Philharmonic, and Modesto Symphony. As a chamber musician, my woodwind quintet (fl, ob, cl, bsn, and French horn) has performed for well over 10,000 students as part of the San Francisco Symphony’s premiere educational program Adventures in Music. Our quintet is also working on completing a CD of classical music written by Mexican composers for the wind quintet which is scheduled to be released in Fall 2009. My life as a musician is exciting and fun. Our quintet is one of the more successful wind quintets as we receive grants, are in demand and get paid to perform in chamber music series and educationals.

My other part of my life is a small business owner. I run a web and graphic design firm where we build websites, marketing collateral and business identity packages for other small businesses. Design is a lot like music in that it’s a creative discipline and there is a lot of technical aspects to master. In both design and music, the purpose is to communicate clearly and evoke emotion.

What were your experiences with the Hawaii Youth Symphony like?

All of my favorite experiences growing up in Hawaii revolve around HYS. I met so many friends from across the state, some of which are still friends today. Traveled to the outer islands, and learned the benefits of teamwork, and the discipline and the joy of making music. Mr. Miyamura had a very high standard for our orchestra. And every time we met that standard, he’d raise the bar. We got to play amazing large orchestral works and some of us on our own formed smaller chamber groups. We had so much fun working and making music.

Why did you join HYS?

The first time I auditioned for HYS was right after 7th grade. I was in band for only one year and a friend of mine was auditioning. I was a beginner and had no idea what an orchestra was and knew I just liked to play the clarinet. I must say, I wasn’t prepared, and I still remember Mr. Miyamura standing next to me saying that I should try again next year. The next year I auditioned I was prepared and made it into Concert Orchestra and was part of HYS ever since.

How has music impacted your life and are you still involved in playing an instrument in any way?

Music hasn’t impacted my life, it is my life. All my decisions have revolved around music. From choosing a university (going to the best school I could get into), to choosing a place to settle (where I could make a living playing the clarinet), to my career path (deciding to work for myself so I’d have the flexibility in my schedule) I still practice almost every day 2 – 3 hours a day and love the life I’ve created. I wouldn’t have this life if it wasn’t for my experiences with HYS.