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The Koto

For the better part of the last six plus decades, I have always thought of my father George as the primary influence on my career as a jazz pianist and a performing artist. It only made sense as dad was a lifetime creator of paintings, sculptures, and educating people on the visual arts. He taught fine arts at The University of Washington for well-over thirty years as well as have countless visitors to his home studio which was filled with art works, both his and others. Dad also collected many artifacts, utilitarian art works, books on art and museums, and other collectibles. The vast collection is still in the family and hopefully  will remain there for many generations to come.

It is only recently that I have come to realize and appreciate the big influence that my mother Ayame had on my upbringing and values. Mom was an outstanding musician, dancer, entrepreneur, and Ikebana artist herself. She was the head of the Asian Art Council at The Seattle Art Museum as well as president of The Seattle Chapter of Ikebana International. Mom and Dad made a great team together not only as parents but as creative business partners as well. They also did a lot of entertaining of family, friends, and various art buyers and museum curators.

From the earliest age, I have the most vivid memories of my mother playing the Koto for us as we were growing up. Oftentimes on a Sunday morning we would wake up to the most incredible Koto music one ever heard. When mom would pluck the strings, the sounds of the notes cut right through me like a hot knife through butter. Her intensity was unabashed and she never pulled any punches so to speak. When I think about it, I can hear the memories and sounds like it was just the other day. To have these experiences so strong in my mind and heart tells me that she was perhaps the biggest influence on my modest endeavors.