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  • Writer's pictureSweet Orange

#206 ♪ 音楽を生み出す楽しさ♪ The joy of creating music ♪

Aiko Fukushima 福島愛子

Title: ♪ The joy of creating music ♪


I interviewed Ms. Aiko Fukushima, conductor of the Japanese choir at El Marino Elementary School in Culver City, about the "joy of creating music.

Ms. Fukushima was born in Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture. Her mother, a piano teacher, and her father, who promoted musical instruments at Yamaha, influenced her to become familiar with music at a Yamaha Music School from an early age. She came to the U.S. to study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. When she first entered the school, her English was a little rusty, and every day she would record her lessons, ask the student sitting next to her to tell her what the homework was, and then go back to the dome or practice room to review. After entering the school, she learned that she could major in film music composition, which had thrilled her since she was a child, and decided to study it alongside jazz. "Fortunately, I received a scholarship from the school and had the opportunity to write and perform a piece for a combined orchestra and big band ensemble. I also studied with Jay Chattaway, composer of Star Trek's "Voyager," who was invited as an Artist in Residence, and around the time of my graduation, I was selected for a BMI-sponsored Pete Carpenter Fellowship to study business with composer Mike Post in Los Angeles, and was subsequently selected to join the Henry Mancini Institute, an orchestra and big band of young musicians who auditioned from all over the world to collaborate with six composers. This led me to move to Los Angeles. After moving to Los Angeles, she attended workshops for composers at the Sundance Institute, known for its film festival, and at the same time joined JoAnn Kane Music Service (JKMS), a company that produces scores and parts for film music recording sessions in Hollywood. While working at JKMS, I worked six days a week, almost without a day off, from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. to make it to the 10:00 a.m. recording sessions, but he had a lot of experiences." One of the most memorable experiences was when she met Yo-Yo Ma, a cellist whom she respected, when she worked as an assistant for John Williams' recordings. "I first heard him play live when I observed a rehearsal of the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Seiji Ozawa. When he came out on stage as a soloist, he greeted everyone in the front row of the orchestra one by one with a smile and a polite handshake before taking his seat. I was happy just to be able to work in the same space with him, but during the intermission, when a friend of mine who knew him tried to greet him, he greeted his friend who was standing next to him, saying, "Nice to meet you, my name is Yo-Yo Ma," and I was impressed by the way he greeted his friend."

After leaving that company in 2009, she continued to work as a freelance composer and orchestrator, and in 2022 her music for "Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles" was released on Netflix. For this work, she asked musicians in Los Angeles, New York, Japan, Switzerland, and Spain to record all kinds of traditional Japanese instruments, including shakuhachi, koto, taiko, shamisen, biwa, hichiriki (a Gagaku wind instrument), shinobue, and kokyu, and combined them with traditional and hip-hop instruments in some scenes. The result is a music that is both traditional and hip-hop in some situations. The theme song was performed by Mike Penny, an exceptionally talented Tsugaru shamisen player from Los Angeles. Isaku Kageyama, another Los Angeles-based taiko drummer, helped us create the sound the producers were looking for, one that wasn't the "10 drummers playing taiko" that Hollywood action movies often feature. He said that he was struck by the sound of the taiko drums. In addition to composing, Aiko's most recent endeavor is the El Marino Japanese Language Choir, a group of bilingual Japanese-English elementary school students that she launched in 2019. The group started with only 8 members, but they have been practicing online while in Corona, and as of 2023, they have grown to 27 members.The children are so adorable and honest, and they are always ready to share their love with others. The children are really cute, honest, and full of potential. "But if we don't put 100% of our heart and soul into them, they will know it right away, so we can't let up!" says Aiko. Watching them grow up has become one of the greatest pleasures in her life.

"As advice to those who want to pursue a career in music, there is so much to learn as a human being and as a person involved in music every day, and you will probably live your life wishing to grow even more until you die. But one thing I can say from experience is that if you don't give up and don't stop doing what you want to do, you will find what you need to do and where you need to be. That place will change at various times in life, you may get bored, and that is okay. Rejection is a daily occurrence in our work (laughs). Before, every time I was not hired or could not do a song well, I would think, "Maybe this profession is not for me!" But recently, I have finally come to believe that it was simply because I didn't match what they were looking for, not because I am not good myself. I was also impressed to hear pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii say in an interview recently, "I believe that only good things can happen to me." I would like to live a cool life like that, and I would like my daughter to do the same."


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