Interview mit Momoko Kamiya

geführt von Evgeniya Kavaldzhieva
(Siehe auch: Deutsche Übersetzung)
Marimba soloist Momoko Kamiya How were you drawn to the marimba as a solo instrument?
I started taking marimba lessons when I was seven as sort of a solo instrument. In Japan, it's quite common (of course no comparison to the numbers of children taking piano lessons! But I guess in comparison to the other countries there are many) to start playing marimba while little. Usually starting with 2 mallets and learning transcription pieces with piano accompaniment. I was like that, too. So for me, although I was not considering what I was learning was "the solo parts", what I was doing for a long time was somehow called playing solo parts. So I naturally grew up as "a soloist" (as I said, although I was not conscious about it! ). It was similar to the kids who took violin, cello or flute lessons.
You have been studying both in Japan and US. How would you describe the differences in the education in these two countries?
It's a long time ago... when I was a student!
So I'm sure there have been many changes since then that I haven't experienced as a student. Also before starting to speak about this issue I have to say that I was not a serious student at all in that I was not considering about my future at all, and was not thinking about what kind of coachings, studies I was looking for, or I should have (...SHAME !). So I have to apologize that I'm not the most appropriate one at all to answer to this question....!
But later on I started to teach at universities in Japan and sometimes I have given classes abroad. Having seen things from "the instructor's side" and having heard things from my foreign friends who teach at universities at their countries, I see Japanese universities are still very closed with their own rules and do not allow having the exceptional cases. It seems many universities in abroad are more flexible.
Since Japan is an isolated island, we used to have only few information about foreign conservatories, seminars and festivals, or any musical news especially on percussion/marimba world. But now it is a lot better and the schools and the students are making their changes. Slowly, but it's better than none.
In 1995 you shared First Prize of the Luxembourg Competition with Katarzyna Mycka. How did that success contribute to your professional experience?
It has helped me a lot.
There was no International Marimba Competition existing anywhere in the world until that year (1995) when suddenly there were 2 International Marimba Competitions! First was the 1st LHS International Marimba Competition, and second the Luxembourg which was held a month after that. Especially at that time marimba was still not a well known instrument. I had been already starting my career as "a solo marimbist" before 1995. But very often I faced the situation that the people asked me "Oh, you are a soloist. Which International Competition have you won?", and me answering "None, because there are no International Marimba Competitions". Then people thought I was lying because I didn't want to tell them I couldn't win any competitions. Realistically speaking, there were many people who judged the young musicians only by hearing their competition career.
I was lucky that I could have a 1st prize result at Luxembourg. I was lucky that there were no Japanese marimbists yet who had won 1st prize at International Competitions. So I assume I could get some attention from the media for a while which connected myself to the agent that I still belong to now (the biggest classical music agent in Japan), and the release of my first CD from the major label (PHILIPS in 1996). Also, my name was not known at all in abroad until Luxembourg Competition. And obviously by the result of the competition, some people remembered me, or heard my name from that. That connected me to what I am doing now as a marimba player -- like getting this interview from you in Würzburg! (Editor's note: Evgeniya Kavaldzhieva lives in Würzburg)
Speaking of Luxembourg Competition, I had an honor to go back there as a jury last year. When I was a candidate there in 1995, I was so grateful to the competition for its sincerity. And this time as a jury, I realized again how wonderful a competition it was. With Prof. Paul Mootz who organizes the competition, all the staffs are so kind, sincere and mature with their pride of running such a wonderful competition. Their effort has made the competition to such a high level competition. I am very happy that I could take part in such a great musical scene both as a candidate and a jury. I hope having such good experiences in a competition has given me good influences, so that I will be able to continue trying making a good path for "the next generation".
You have very rich repertoire and you have commissioned various new pieces. What is your approach when you start to learn a new piece?
......! Nothing special, I think!
I receive the score, I read it first. Since I'm not a good "score reader", I do this work often by following the score on the instrument (sight read the score). After following the score once, I start learning more details -- lots of works! Learning a new piece to me is often like reading a puzzle, or labyrinth. It may be easy to read the written notes on the score -- if I am lucky! A lot of times it's already VERY difficult work to read the notes! -- but the more I see, I start to find the hidden secret which is sometimes not printed on the score. Or it was but I couldn't see it until I got to know the music well enough! This is not always an easy job to do, but it is the fun and amazing part on learning music for me.
Most of the time I contact the composer after myself reading the score for the first time since I want to see what kind of images I get by sight reading the score without knowing the composer's thoughts on the piece (whether if there are any particular stories or not).
If I commission a piece, I often have a time with the composer to speak about the new piece before he/she starts to compose.
How do you comment the development of the Marimba's printed music and the interest of more and more composers in this instrument as well?
In comparison to my student days, now there are a lot, a lot more numbers of marimba music that have been composed, and which is great!
But it is still closed in some way.
The performance technique on marimba is still not familiar to many composers, and I hope it will open up more to them. We see many marimba pieces which are composed by marimba/percussion players, which is great! Mostly they are so well written without having impossible technique for playing the piece, and written very effective on sound since the composer knows about the instrument very well.
I hope this will connect to the non marimba/percussionist composers as well as having more great pieces by marimba/percussionist composers.
Thank you very much for the interview and all the best!
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