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Meet Hiroko Nagahata, Pianist and Music Educator

Today we’d like to introduce you to Hiroko Nagahata.

Hiroko, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I live in Chicago and teach and perform in the U.S. and in Japan. As a music educator, I have taught piano and music theory lessons at schools, summer intensive program, chamber music workshop, and at private studio. Chicago has a great orchestra hall, opera house, and music schools that have talented young musicians. It is a perfect place for musicians to live. I had worked for a school residency program at Lyric Opera of Chicago as an accompanist for a few years. It was a program to introduce singing, acting to public school children. Working with children from those music schools and Lyric Opera’s program as an accompanist and teacher really helped me to understand children; how their brains work and what fascinates them.

Now I also work for a publication famous for their piano method and literature. Method books are like textbooks for music lessons. I admired their method books as a piano teacher, and now I’m a part of the team as a clinician. I am very excited about this job.

My mother is a piano teacher, so I grew up with piano. As a child, I loved singing, my parents still have a recording of me singing a children’s song at the age of 3. Around the age of 13, I met an inspiring new teacher. Daily practice became the most exciting thing to do. Then I won a first prize at a competition. Head of the judges was one of the foremost pianists in Japan and her compliments and encouragement meant a lot.

I went on studying music in college in Japan. A professor in my college was teaching in a summer music program in New York, and she invited me to join her. I met a wonderful Russian piano teacher at the program. As a result, I moved to New York and went to Manhattan School of Music to study with him.

One of the highlights of my performing career is my solo debut recital at Carnegie Hall in 2009 after winning an audition. I’m glad I applied for this audition. Having performed at prestigious Carnegie Hall opened many doors for me as a performer. I completed my doctoral degree for piano performance at Michigan State University in 2012, and moved to Chicago.

Has it been a smooth road?
Developing a piano studio with a good number of students usually doesn’t happen overnight. Especially when you move to a new place, you will have to start from scratch to build your studio again. I thought I didn’t have too much to lose before moving to Chicago spending only a few years in New York and Michigan as a student. I was already teaching, but I still hadn’t developed a solid studio. Upon moving to Chicago, I worked for multiple schools for accompanying and teaching, which helped me to network in the new city. Eventually, I have got many students and my teaching experience and style became solid.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Pianist/Music Educator story. Tell us more about the business.
While I am actively performing, I teach classical piano and music theory to students of different levels. Being both performing pianist and teacher is a challenge, but performing for audiences, including your students, is important. My teachers who were concert pianists inspired me. I believe that keeping your passion alive enables you to give lessons that teach music as an art form.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Musicians teach students. That’s a long history for hundreds of years. My mother ran successful piano studio, and neighborhood kids came from word of mouth. Now many musicians use internet efficiently for advertising their studios or performing projects. Also now some teachers teach lessons and masterclasses via live video. Students across the glove can access to the knowledge at the other side of the world. It has a lot of potential.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Chicago Trio Workshop

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